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So Brave, So Quiet

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Note: Hi everyone! I'm back with a new project that I started 5 months ago. The story will be 22 chapters long and will be published both in French and in English (here and on FanFiction). It's a casefic, also focusing on the Sherlock and John's relationship. It takes place at the end of Season 1. The title is inspired by a quote from Hemingway "You're so brave and quiet, I forget you are suffering," and the story itself is mainly inspired by all the amazing work of dr_girlfriend and PerverselyVex.

Beta: PJTL156 & J. Puddles. Thank you so much ladies, you ARE the best!

In short: Enjoy your reading and please review; I'd love to hear from you, dear readers :)


John Hamish Watson, of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, has always been perfectly in charge of his life, thank you very much. Late of the Army Medical Department, perfect son, flawless brother, the ex-soldier native of the north London suburb was all you could expect from a man: honest, courageous and reliable. In short, someone you could really rely on. The only real moments where his mind could get some rest for a few minutes was when he was getting away, his eyes closed, his hearing kept on alert by a melody in which he was losing himself.

John liked music like others liked to fall on their couch before putting their feet on the coffee table, returning from a working day where their boss had shown them once again that first, he wasn't going to allow their pay rise they have been waiting for, and that secondly, the onion supplement in the burger at lunch was not a good idea.

Of course, at Keble School, where he spent his younger years, the young boy with the blond hair only held a musical recorder with a bad taste because he had chewed the plastic, with little interest, too many times. No piano with ebony and ivory keys where his hands got lost every time; no violin where his kind of chubby cheek - as too many times underlined by Timothy Fester - landed before squealing a clumsy melody, but oh so expressive. No partition of Chopin, Mozart or Respighi to sight-read between semiquaver and F-clef, but instead an umpteenth interpretation of Lennon's Imagine, that John started to hate from all his future-ex-soldier soul.

At the Watson's, the only radio was in the kitchen placed on top of the fridge. John's parents only turned on the radio in the morning for the weather forecast and Camilia Tomes' Gardening Show, before turning it off when the news started. There was no musical radio station. It was either classical, retro or even less trendy music. So, when John got a Walkman by his aunt Annie for his sixteenth birthday, suffice to say his ears only left the quilted earphone when he had to take a shower.

On his bedside table stood around twenty tapes, swapped and more rarely bought, all representative of musical styles very different, for which he had the same interest. Only Madonna didn't have a place in his earphone, already listened in a loop - and way too loudly - in the next room, where Harry put on the walls posters of the singer with the cone bra. Thinking about it today made John realise there were some signs concerning his sister's future liking, indeed.

All in all, John attended three concerts in his life. The first when he was 17, when he went to the concert of a boy from his class in a bar in West London, where perfectly hysterical girls screamed the name of the singer with greasy hair and dubious dentition. The second one happened the day of his 22th birthday, when the orchestra of his village - not exceptional but however pleasant - played a Rachmaninov étude with an out of tune violin and a harpist with a cold. The third one occurred in Camp Bastion, when the improvised choir sang a Christmas song full of hope in front of an audience wrapped-up in battledress, of which eight died the next day in a muddled and bloody attack which broke out near the camp.

In conclusion, and despite his musical education extremely reduced, John Hamish Watson really liked music.

So, seated on the humid tiles which were soaking the bottom of his trousers, only a few meters away from the green parka which was keeping him warm a few seconds ago, he asked himself why the resounded song was only giving him a trembling heart and an awful feeling of sickness.

Ah, ah, ah, ah stayin' alive, stayin' alive...

Truly not expected.

"Do you mind if I get that?"

"No, no, please, you've got the rest of your life," answered Sherlock, shaking the gun he had in his hand as if it was a simple Kleenex tissue without any danger.

Truly not expected at all.

Jim Moriarty, the man they were chasing for a few months, turned around, taking out the origin of the strident bell: a mobile so modern John had never seen one like it. Jim brought it to his ear before whispering a 'Sorry', for the only detective of the room who seemed barely disturbed by the intrusion. The chlorinated water aground on the pool side was slowly moving back up the doctor's trousers, reaching his calf which made him shiver under the cold and odious feeling of the sticky fabric. And even if John hated being all wet with his clothes on, as much as he hated to sing Imagine there's no country, let's be honest, he preferred that to exploding all guts out because of a fucking parka deflagration.

Since when did life consist on being abducted by a criminal in front of his home, bound hand and foot in the back of a truck without any number plate, before being taken to a pool with a morbid past where he was put in a jacket made of Semtex? Of course, John knew the reason: since half of his rent was paid by the unique, on and only consulting detective in the world, a music-lover and sociopath who mastered the art of rhetoric as much as firearms. Which could have seemed dangerous - which John particularly loved.

The ex-soldier brushed all of his thoughts aside before coming back to the humid reality of his trousers, which were sticking to his right leg. A quick gaze to his flatmate who was on his feet in front of him, and his face as white as the tiles, permitted a tiny smile on the detective's face. They were maybe going to die, but at least it was perfectly clear that nothing that was happening in the empty pool was even remotely normal. Great; at least John didn't have the impression he became entirely crazy.

They waited for several long minutes whilst the only sound was the theatrical whispering of the criminal which echoed in the vast room, shutting up the lapping of a water where John imagined he was going to die, again and again. In front of him, Sherlock was still pointing his gun on the prohibitive suit. It was stupid and completely disconcerting to see how much of their lives, and deaths too, for the three of them, summarised to the first detective's phalanx.

Turning over in one go, like an actor coming onto the stage, Moriarty faced them again before sliding his mobile in his pocket and joining his hands in a joyful snap, offering them a smile worthy of a clown straight from a Stephen King book:

"This meeting was really enriching, Sherlock, but I must be going now."

The young man hesitated a moment, closing his eyes. His hand awkwardly tightening up on the gun, and his mind clearly full of questions, before Jim Moriarty stopped all of his interrogations:

"But we'll see each other soon."

"I hope so."

"Good evening, Sherlock."

"Good evening."

The criminal offered him one last smile, full of honey and razor blades, and with a slow pace, worthy of the psychopath he was, he left the vast room, the suit covered by the reflection of the bluish water, dancing at the sound of a faint melody. It could have been beautiful, if everything wasn't this petrifying.

"Oh my God," spat John when the door had definitely closed behind the object of all their nightmares.

"John," Sherlock hastened to call, already on his knees in front of his flatmate of whom he pressed his forehead before lifting with his thumb an eyelid to examine his eyes.

"Easy..."

"John, are you okay?"

"I'm fine Sherlock, I didn't..."

"John, how are you feeling?" he added as he had no answer.

"I'm fine!" The blond man yelled, who never understand why Sherlock always needed to use his first name as if he was slightly half-wit by not understanding the detective was talking to him.

"I'll warn Lestrade."

"Yes, good idea..."

The ex-soldier didn't close his eye for one second, following his friend with his tired gaze getting back on his feet, before pacing up and down in front of him, his thumbs nervously typing on the mobile he just got out of his pocket.

"What just happened, Sherlock?"

"Well, we finally saw Jim Moriarty's face and found out his weak spot."

"His musical taste?"

Sherlock stopped pacing and smiled. It was one of those smiles where he only raised the left corner of his mouth, blocking in a rictus and creating a subtle dimple where all John's oh-so-very-manly will seemed to get lost, before he started his incessant walk again, his eyes fixed on the screen.

"Moriarty likes to make a spectacle of himself."

"What a nice euphemism," said John ironically. He set his hand down on the ground for leverage, before getting back up onto his feet with difficulty.

"John!" called his friend, completely shocked by his gesture.

"Oh for Christ's sake, Sherlock, I'm fine, and if I stay seated one second longer, I'll end up with a wet arse and no way I'll let that happen, got it?"

Despite the perfectly serious and concerned look on the youngest man's face, John surprised himself by smiling, and his hands didn't shiver once. Because no matter if a psychopath with an international reputation had just placed a time bomb on his back, which could have blown up Westminster, it was out of the question if he ended up with a wet crotch in front of half of Scotland Yard.

Sherlock looked at him getting up, replacing his mistreated jumper under the parka and put his mobile back in his pocket. There they were, alone and despite the Semtex, the guns and the little red dancing dots on their chests, they were alive, so everything was fine. With a hand cold for staying too long on the tile, John massaged his neck with his head hanging back, his eyes wide open, staring at a crackling light bulb he hadn't noticed before. Sherlock probably detected it as soon as he entered the pool. Because Sherlock Holmes was always seeing everything by dint of observing shamelessly, exactly as he was doing now, scrutinising John's face as if it was a common bacterium placed under his microscope.

"What?" asked the older man, the grimace of impatience reasserting itself on his pale face.

"Nothing."

"You're looking at me."

"I'm looking at you, John."

"Why?"

"Sherlock ?"

The two men turned around and by the swing door's little porthole, the black helmet of Scotland Yard's best men allowed the doctor to take a deep and painful inspiration. With a sharp gesture, Gregory Lestrade pushed the double door open and sighed noisily - a relieved or weary complaint, nobody could have known. John looked at the police team invading the surrounding areas, sadly too familiar with all that was happening, pulling a face when the black boots make the tiles dirty with mud from the outside, when the DI's voice shouted:

"You two, get out."


In front of the indoor pool, on the cold concrete covered with gum, a crowd of curious citizens were rushing behind a garish yellow ribbon, their eyes bulging despite the luminosity more than weak, made partially bestial at the mere idea they could admire a body laid down under a shroud, a man with handcuffs or just a little blood. More than once, Gregory Lestrade held himself back from catching onto one of those onlookers who put their dirty nose on a crime scene and making Lestrade realise that no, there was absolutely no pleasure in discovering a dead body. Luckily, the DI was professional. Most of the time.

On his right, seated on the ambulance's ledge, John was following with his blue gaze a pen a doctor was moving from right to left. Sherlock, as for him, accepted the blanket on his shoulders at least.

"Graham..."

"Gregory," he corrects, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"My name's Sherlock."

"I know you git, but my name is Gregory."

"Possibly," concludes Sherlock. He lacked concern for this insignificant data before starting again, back to his flatmate, his eyes sliding from the DI to the nurse on his knees next to them. "I think John should go to hospital to have some examinations."

"Sherlock..." laughed the blond man with a giggle; he was absolutely not amused.

"Why?" asked Lestrade. He put his fists against his hips, his tired eyes filled with lack of sleep and caffeine already expiring - my God how the nights with Holmes were everything but relaxing.

"He wore a vest full of Semtex for an hour and almost got killed, don't you think he'll need some psychological support?"

The DI makes a sideways step and tilts his head to observe the ex-soldier on which the nurse was just putting a blood pressure monitor, and Sherlock turned around with the same breath. Three pairs of worried eyes were now looking at John who pushed back his head before bursting into a stunned laugh.

"For God's sake, Sherlock, are you really that worried? Everything's fine; I am fine. Nothing exploded, I still have all of my body parts tied together. The only consequence of tonight's events is that I won't ever be able to listen to the Bee Gees without getting sick, but I think I'll be okay."

The nurse in front of him raises an eyebrow and John felt obliged to reassure him:

"Private joke. It makes sense after everything we've been through, trust me."

"Okay, it's too late for bullshit but I want your damn arses tomorrow at 9A.M in my office, are we clear?"

"Clear," answered John, his head nodding with a military precision, getting up on his feet once the armband was off his arm.

"But Gra-Gregory!" called Sherlock, stopping right away by the oldest man's forefinger, raised like a threat between their two faces.

"If John says he's fine then he's fine. Now, Sherlock, go back home, take a shower, enjoy a good scotch and do... whatever it is that you usually do when I come to save you, and tomorrow I'll want every detail on this Moriarty."

Sherlock's face became withdrawn, the mask of the worried man giving way to the one cold and harsh that nobody on this damn earth really liked, and the most fake smile on the planet appeared on his mouth. Oh, how Sherlock hated it when someone was telling him what to do - and it was precisely why Gregory acted this way. The brown haired man let the blanket fall on the ground and put his hand in his right pocket before walking toward the yellow ribbon uncoiled between two police cars. If a lot of adjectives were suitable to describe Sherlock, for sure, mature wasn't one of them.

"Well, I'd better go before he forgets me and we end up paying two taxis for nothing. Thank you again, Greg; see you tomorrow," smiled John. He shook the DI's hand with one last smile before running behind the £1100 coat he was seeing more often from the back that from the front.


When Sherlock pushed the door to get onto the first floor and John discovered above his shoulder the living-room was already lit by the few lamps that were still turned on, the doctor let out a deep sigh which moved his entire being. His respiration was a step fiendishly complex, always vital but sometimes so painful. John had lost his breath once, his face buried in the sand, his shoulder bleeding and the pain reigning on all his body. He swore to himself he'll never live through something like that again.

This was without counting on Mike Stamford and his own need to find a flat, before he had to go back to East Barnet due to a lack of money. It was now a daily occurrence that he was losing his breath during the chase of a black coat at the pursuit of a criminal. But that wasn't the worst part, of course; the adrenaline and the madness of the moment were always creating a primary and vital need to run, catch, and win. The worst part was here, in this living-room with the improbable wallpaper, the spying skull and the smell between dust and greatness where Sherlock reeled continuously. The worst was the calm.

John closed his eyes for a while until his right foot struck the ground violently, making him jump with surprise - did he really just faint?

"John?" asked Sherlock, his shirt sleeves around his elbows (since when did he get rid of his jacket?). In his hands were two tea pots he clearly couldn't decide between. "Is everything all right?"

"Yeah. Yes. Are you making tea?"

"Isn't this what you do when we finish a case?"

"Yes, precisely, I do it," he answered, his smile even more dangerous than his gun, betraying his incomprehensible face to Sherlock's gesture, before he came by to take the pots out of his hands. "Which one do you want?"

The brown haired man made a vague gesture with his hand and walked towards the desk before John took care of the kettle. His temples were hurting him. His eyes were hurting him. Damn it, his eyelashes were hurting him. When was the last time he had a proper meal? Oh yes, of course. Noon. Well if a crisp-bread sandwich and three peanuts stolen in the pub down the road could really constitute a meal. Faced with Moriarty, however, he wasn't hungry at all, but as always, everything had to become calm before the storm.

"Tell me, John."

John pinched his lips together from left to right, pouring the boiling water in two mismatched cups and answered, raising his voice to be heard by his friend:

"They took off the bag I had on my head once we entered the pool and it was the first time I saw him," taking the two cups, too tired to avoid getting burnt he came back to the living-room before sitting in his chair, Sherlock in front of him.

The detective put his long fingers one against another in his traditional thinking pose, looking at the blond haired man with attention.

"First, he opened his arms big, shouting 'Surprise!', which was not very funny but he laughed anyway. Then he asked me if I suffered too much in the back of the truck and whispered very loudly he was hoping I did, then he got closer to me and he..." pinching his lips together, he smiled for one second and started looking at Sherlock again. "Buttoned up my parka. So that I 'don't catch a cold'. For the love of God, Sherlock, who could raise a man like that?"

"Focus, Freud."

"Sorry. In short, he thanked me for coming, then he told me it was an experience very interesting, which he couldn't wait to discover all the aspects of, that we were waiting for the lead role and that he was craving to meet the star, the one on which every head was turning."

"Me."

"Of course you, Sherlock. It's always about you," said the ex-soldier smiling, slowly drinking his burning tea.

The brown haired man, starting to drink his tea too, had a micro, absolutely-not-amused smile, his piercing gaze never leaving his friend in front of him.

"Did you notice that, as soon as you got in, I no longer existed? When he got his phone call, he apologized to you. He clarified he wanted to see you again. Then he wished you a good evening."

"Psychological torture - to make you feel useless."

"That's what a lot of people think, right?"

Tilting his head, Sherlock raised an eyebrow.

"A lot of people believe in you, John. They trust you."

"In everyday life, of course, but when I'm with you on the field, I'm invisible. Like when Lestrade meets us. He always says 'Sherlock' and not 'Sherlock and John'."

"Well, you don't have my deduction skills but you..."

"No, Sherlock, I wasn't trying to have your sympathy, I just wanted to tell you so, that's all."

The silence settled between them like a third guest of whom they didn't dare to interrupt, and both of them, British as always, finished their tea before it got cold. His eyelids full of a fictive sand, John spread his legs in front of him, turning his neck on its side before getting up on his feet with his cup now empty in his right hand.

"Well. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, John."

The ex-soldier did his best to not throw his mug in the empty sink.


In his bed, the sheets as cold as night, John rolled over for the 38th time. It was only temporary - the dancing red dots in front of his eyes and the voice of a man which was crossing him as if he wasn't even there – but, meanwhile, finding sleep was even more difficult than the tiles in the pool. Shit. Everything was going to come down to this, he felt it – the same way he felt when he came back from Camp Bastion when everything tasted like sand and all was hot as the desert.

With a head heavy from sleep pulling him in, his muscles trembled under weary spasms, so close, so close to finally falling asleep, before a voice brought him back to the harsh and exhausting reality in one go:

"John."

He was already straightening himself up before being fully conscious of it. With his eyes bitten by night, he saw in front of him the door wide open, the catch confined in the detective's hand, standing on his feet and still fully dressed, his gaze as sharp as a microscope's.

"Holy fuck, Sherlock! What do you... what are you... Oh my God, you're still worried, right? Everything's fine, Sherlock, I can handle it, okay?" he said shouting, the mere concept of living in the city and being surrounded by sleeping neighbours had slipped his mind.

"Good."

The blond man opened his eyes and the brown haired man closed his, like a quiet consent. Softly, he closed the door and finally, the room got back its semblance of sanctuary where John liked to get rest when he had a chance. John resumed his position under the blanket with all his weight, deliberately thrusting his head in the soft pillow and his brain groggy with sleep, which was repeating those four single words which never quitted the mind of this man, late of the Army Medical Department, perfect son, flawless brother, ex-soldier, honnest, courageous and reliable he has always, always has been.

I can handle it.

Chapter Text

Note : Hello! First of all, thank you so much everyone for your lovely comments. The fact that you took time to read my first chapter and to post a review really proves that you are the best! Enjoy your reading on chapter two :)
Betas : PJTL156 and J. Puddles , thank you thank you thank you.


As he had already done a thousand times before, John signs the prescription before giving it to the patient in front of him. The teenager carefully reads it and raises his red nose -from too much blowing- toward the older man:

"Seriously, do they teach you how to write this badly at medical school?"

"Sure, that's part of the conditions to have a mention," immediately answers John, putting back the cap on his pen.

"Well, you got the highest honour then."

John breathes a sigh of relief, half-amused, half-exhausted by this endless day and gets up on his feet to take the young patient to the door before stopping in front of the coat rack. His white hand - the evidence of iron deficiency - grabs a green parka and puts it on, before making the shock of a hair cut by his mother disappear under the hood.

"Thanks, sir," says the teenager without a second glance, but John doesn't answer - how could he say something when the kid is slipping on his thin shoulders, without shivering, a green parka?

The door closes and he finally breathes. It's just a piece of fabric of poor quality and no way it's going to be a phobia, so John forgets the fictive red dots which seem printed on his retina and sits in his Speaker's chair which is only impressive by its name. He doesn't like this leather seat; during the summer, his bare arms stick to the chair by the sweat, and the rest of the time it makes an exasperating shriiek when he moves on it - like a clown with peep-peep hidden in his shoes. No wonder the kids of the neighbourhood laugh openly at his face.

He cleans his desk made of plastic, a bit, turns around to the 15'' screen and automatically takes a glimpse at the Guardian website. Scottish Independence, politics issues in Eastern Europe and the start of the new year of school; nothing that could be a case. A new one that would not finish in a pool is preferable. He barely has time to go on his blog to check new incoming messages before the incessant bip of his phone brings him back to the so-calm order of his doctor life. He turns off his screen before his next patient comes in the room. Gastroenteritis. Fantastic.


His last patient examined and reassured, John closes his surgery's door with the key he's about to drop at the reception desk, when he bumps into the head doctor, Mark Barrow. This forty-year-old man, blond hair with big blue eyes and thick eyebrows, late surgeon, now a man in charge of this small clinic in North London who spends most of his time between those white walls. Quite handsome. This man sways constantly between consultations on the run and wandering hands with the nurse in the first floor cupboards. Often, John thinks to himself that if he had a tan as fake as Barrow's, he could get off in a flash. Then he remembers the existence of skin cancer and miraculously, his libido soothes right away.

"Good day, John?"

"Good day," he confirms, smiling, his elbows on the counter's reception.

"I saw on the planning that you're doing your blood donation tomorrow? Is Sophie going to take care of it? "

"Yes, she's the one who did it the last time."

"And she's kind of cute," adds Mark in a knowing wink.

"Yes, she's kind of cute."

How stupid it is, this way of repeating word for word his superior's claims; a useless legacy of his military training.

"I heard you dated Sarah last time? Nice; she's very hot with her two big advantages... "

"Oh yes, very hot but... it didn't work out, you know."

"If that doesn't work out with a woman like that, I'm sorry to say you're a fag, mate."

The smile John imposes on his lips hurts him so much it's all his self-esteem that seems to crack open under the effort.

"Good evening, Mark."

"See you tomorrow."

The blond man salutes him with a vague gesture and leaves the clinic.

Why do men always feel obligated to think another man's gay if he doesn't like a woman with an oversized chest? John already dated women with short hair and a bust loose in an A cup bra. She remained a woman, and some of them were much more attractive to him than what the society imposes as a beauty ideal.

Anyway, her breasts didn't have a say in the matter. It didn't work out with Sarah because of that thing so simple his male friend seemed to sometimes forget: it didn't work out on the human level. It could have probably worked on the skin-against-skin level, but to see her collapsing after the Black Lotus case proved to John the woman wasn't prepared for the lifestyle he had with Sherlock.

So, yes, Sherlock's not a flatmate like any other and instead of having a fight about who didn't do the washing-up, they run when the night comes round London to catch a rapist or an evader. They don't have shelves with their name on it in the fridge because the head inside it since last Monday takes too much space. They never spend a cozy night in front of the telly because burglaries happen at night and no way would they wait until the next morning to go and investigate. So, admittedly, it's not normal, but normal is boring and boring is dangerous.

In the trembling subway, between the baby's tears in his blue pushchair and the noisy laughs of the three teenagers around him, John keeps his eyes fixed on the map above the door, his lips pinched in an unconscious grimace. Two more stops and he'll be able to leave the furnace produced by men with belted suits and unbearable pressure, and by the kids coming back home after school. Sometimes, John wonders how it's humanly possible to raise a child in London. Some other times, he wonders if he'd have to leave this city he loves so much to raise a hypothetical family. And as he doesn't quite know if the idea terrifies or pleases him. When that happens, he does everything he can to keep this gulf sensation in his chest quiet.

At Baker Street where a Boris Bikes terminal is being settled, the ex-soldier quickens his pace and enters 221B. In the small dark hallway, Mrs. Hudson, a bin bag at his feet, frantically cleans the glass of her apartment door, mumbling about Mrs. Perkins' nephew who put his greasy fingers on it, before leaving his chocolate candy paper on the wooden floor.

"Good evening, Mrs. Hudson."

"John!" cries out the woman, jumping in surprise, tightening up the dirty duster against her pullover. "Where have you been? I went upstairs to bring you some scones and Sherlock told me you went out!"

"I was at the clinic. Since Sarah is on sick leave, they are under-staffed, so... " smiles John, his thumbs uselessly pointing behind his shoulder.

"Couldn't you take a day off?"

"No," he smiles, putting a hand on the guardrail, ready to take refuge on the first floor to hide from the remonstrance of this mother who's not even his.

"Do you have something to eat up there?"

"Yes, Mrs. Hudson."

"Other than leftovers?"

The doctor slightly shakes his head and doesn't answer this time before saluting the landlady and climbing the creaking stairs.

"I'll be right up to bring you some pea soup as soon as I'm done with the cleaning!" shouts a shrill voice from downstairs.

On the first floor, the doors are already open and the feeble light of this September end of the day is the vestige of a too short summer the Londoners already regret. Sherlock, seated at the desk settled between the two windows, types with his long fingers on the keyboard on a computer which is actually his. It's so memorable John dithers to crack open a bottle of champagne.

"New case?" asks the blond man, taking off his vest which he puts on the hanger behind him.

Sherlock barely raises his head, his clear eyes scrutinising one long second the doctor's body from top to bottom, before looking at the screen again.

"No."

John nods -uselessly- and finds his way to the kitchen where he discovers a clean table, however scattered with crumbs, and an empty sink. He doesn't comment out loud this remarkable change and walks to the kettle he fills to overflowing, smiling as he doesn't have to contort the object to avoid pans and other utensils usually filling the sink.

"John, where were you?" suddenly asks the younger man up on his feet, walking toward him, more serious than ever.

"If you're going to blame me for the thousandth time I didn't hear your 'John, tissue', or 'John, Mrs. Hudson breathes too noisily, make her stop,' then forget it."

"You were over there, weren't you?"

"Over there. You mean at the clinic, my workplace, where I save lives? Then yes, I was over there," smiles John instead of getting really pissed off.

"You saw a kid with bronchitis, a case of gastroenteritis, three cases of eczema and a teenage girl who came for you to sign a dispensation for a sport class; how is that saving lives?"

"What are you reproaching me for exactly?" asks the doctor, raising his voice, always feeling terribly awkward when Sherlock states the exact composition of his day without any decency - no wonder John carefully avoids the living-room the morning following his autoerotic nights.

"We didn't even speak about Moriarty," answers the brunet, enunciating every word as if he already repeated them a thousand times.

John bursts into laughter and turns his back on the detective before walking to the cupboard with the used catch: the one where they're accumulating tea they're always buying in a large number. He barely hesitates and finally takes the first one in front of him - a Russian mix of black tea from China and India - and continues:

"It's okay, Sherlock, it was... "

"Yesterday," cuts off the brunet, standing on his feet across the kitchen table, with a straight face and eyes like magnets fixed on the older man.

John discreetly inspires, pinches his lips from top to bottom, just taking the time to calm the tiny trembling on his left cheek and turns around, smiling summerly.

"You heard what Lestrade said this morning at Scotland Yard: Moriarty left for Switzerland and they won't ask for extradition to avoid a diplomatic incident. He's watched by the authority so he won't make a move. If you want, go light a candle at St. Bride and pray for him to fall off a cliff or that he suffocates with an expired chocolate, but meanwhile, I really don't think it's useful to worry. "

"But you went back to work, as if nothing happened... "

"What about you, Sherlock, what did you do today?" John smiles as far as possible, determined to make this impossibly stubborn life still go on, whatever he might say.

"I... called Molly concerning that budgerigar theft - it was the gardener as I told you. I finished my experiment on the head I put in the fridge and you'll be glad to know I threw it away as you asked me to do. I changed the battery in the remote control so you don't have to complain every time you get up to change the channel directly on the television. And I might have used the jumper your sister offered you, as a mop, when the experiment I did on the head went... boom."

John held his laugh with difficulty whilst pouring the boiling water in the two cups he put on the table, before taking his place to face his flatmate. They make the ceramics bang together, smile, and in one movement get their mugs close to their mouths before blowing softly.

"In conclusion, a day like any other. Like me. "

"But, John, you're not like me."

"Oh right, you're the brain and I'm the heart? You'd be the one analyzing everything coldly while I'd be the one suffering the emotional consequences?", smiles John, putting back his hot cuppa, quoting the words they read once in a bottom-end article coming from a tabloid even more bottom-end, when the royals gossips weren't as satisfying as before, the detective and his acolyte becoming suddenly the centre of their attention.

Sherlock politely smiles, aware of the words' debatable absurdity and slowly drinks his beverage, filling the room with the fragrance of tea. It takes quite a while before one of the two men open their mouth again, but that's okay. Since a long time ago -since the first day, quite frankly- John understood that with Sherlock, their relationship is so simple and so pure, that even silence is not embarrassing. It's priceless, really, because if he had to burn a note every time he was seated next to a date, having nothing to tell her and suffering from the silence as the more terrible torture, he would be simply broke. Not that he's really rich. And not that Sherlock is a date.

"What were you doing on your computer, by the way?"

"I was checking if there were some seats left."

"Seats for what?"

"Wednesday evening, Giuseppe Denosa leads the London orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. They'll be playing Bruch and Liszt's Préludes."

"Ah," John nods before chancing his thin lips to the hot edge of the ceramic.

"No, not Ah, John; Denosa! Liszt! Les Préludes!" insists the detective, every word louder than the previous one - and said with so much more passion that the blond man stops in his savouring to raise an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth.

"Okay, sorry. So, are there any seats left?"

"A few...," answers Sherlock, shrugging a shoulder, obviously holding back the excitation sparkling in his eyes like a million stars.

For sure, John didn't have many occasions in his short life spent next to Sherlock Holmes to see him passionate -or even human- but there's something about the classical music that always makes the detective terribly spontaneous, and suddenly his coldness gains a few degrees and his person gains in sympathy. John won't ever forget that Sunday evening of last March, when finishing to read a novel next to the fireplace, he raised his head to look at Sherlock, stretched out in his pyjamas on the couch since one hour earlier, listening to Respighi's Pines of Rome. His hands were joined in a silent prayer, his feet exceeding over the armrest, and even if this evening was going as usual, John could have sworn he saw a tear running down the youngest man's cheek. By far, and by his eyes bitten by his age he's trying to forget, the doctor wasn't sure he didn't have a hallucination. He stayed for a while in his armchair without moving, simply admiring the scene that never really left him. He thinks about it often, and the idea that Sherlock really could have cried just by listening to music pulls his lips in a grimace he's not really sure he has to call a smile.

"Okay, I'll come with you."

Sherlock smiles, the millions of stars seeming to gain in intensity and John rolls his eyes, tightening his fingers around his cup of tea.

"We're going to see a Philharmonic concert together now. My God, people will talk."

"Of course they will. They'll say you have a good taste in music but they'll criticise without any doubts the jumper you'll choose to wear that night."

"If you hate them so much, why don't you get rid of them in one go, when I'm off at the clinic?"

"I prefer to make the pleasure last."

The two men smile, the comfortable silence in which they feel at home wrapping them barely a second before Mrs. Hudson's piercing scream rings out from the small backyard, like a nail scratching a blackboard, making the hairs on their arms stand on end.

"Where did you throw the head, Sherlock?"

"In the blue waste," he announces, proud to show to his flatmate his teaching on the waste sorting did serve, after all.

In a jump, John gets off his chair and hurries to the stairs before hearing Sherlock's voice, leaned above the guardrail on the first floor:

"Wait, was I supposed to put it in the black one?"


Note:
The tea John and Sherlock are drinking can be found right here. And I hope you like murders as there'll be one in the next chapter... Meanwhile, have a nice week dear readers!

Chapter Text

Note: Hey guys! Wow, 19 comments and 43 kudos? Thank you so much, you're best, this is so stimulating :)! I hope you'll like this (lively) chapter too.
Beta:
 many thanks to the amazing J. Puddles.


His nose finally out of the stifling air of Waterloo Station, John inhales and rapidly turns his head from left to right on York Road, before crossing over the street. On his watch, it's 7.24 PM, showing, once again, he left home way too early. It's not like he had a choice.

It's been exactly a week since Sherlock started to daily bring up Denosa, the Royal Festival Hall or even a musical instrument, leaving John the odd impression nothing else really matters to the detective. Because with this Moriarty story being over, the ex-soldier thought -mistakenly- Sherlock would jump on the next case like his aunt Annie jumps on a Sainsbury's discount coupon. But it has been eight days since they entered the pool, eight days that nothing had happened and eight days since the detective seemed perfectly okay with inactivity, and that's a first. Music really does have a magnetic power on Sherlock Holmes.

However, facing the huge glass door spinning around, John forgets all of those anxiety dust and comes back to the very concrete reality of the Armani costumes and Ted Baker dresses surrounding him, like caviar surrounds the fly. It's a bit embarrassing, so he closes up his leather path cord vest and lowers his chin in response to all the other raised around him. He has never been in a concert hall this classy, and it smells pound up to the handkerchiefs where noses hit by the beginning of October play hide and seek. He doesn't have time to turn around in search of Sherlock Holmes in the vast hall that the vibration against his left side already makes him smile.

Left entry. Seats 14 & 15 W. Nice shirt. SH

John hides his mobile in his pocket and curses himself for not being able to hide this easily with his cheeks blushing, before quickening his pace to the stairs of the desired entry. His feet pressing the soft carpet, John goes up and up again before facing a young brunette with an ambiguous shirt on, who checks his e-ticket before pointing out his seat. He slides on the first of the three rows and politely apologises to the people seated who are squirming their legs to give him space - and if even ordinary people are already squeezed in, John can't wait to see how Sherlock can fit in here.

The answers comes to him quickly. In the centre of the row, wrapped in his black coat, his arms against his chest as if he's wearing a straitjacket and his legs oddly crossed and squashed against the wooden guardrail, Sherlock Holmes imposes to the room an absurd respect which already makes the doctor smiles.

"A bit tight, aren't we?"

And as he doesn't quite know if Sherlock looks at him or really tries to kill him with his dark pupils, John seats without commenting one second more the situation.

"Have you been here long?"

"Not long."

"Why are you still wearing your coat?"

"Because."

John rolls his eyes and quickly takes his jacket off and puts it on his knees before grabbing the black fabric over the detective.

"Okay, take that off now, you'll be cold when you'll get out otherwise."

Apparently, it's a contest of who will know the ceiling better tonight as Sherlock rolls his eyes so much John feels the need to do the same.

"Brat."

"Mummy," answers his friend before twisting himself awkwardly to let John undressing him despite the limited space.

The coat finally put on the empty seat on the detective's right side, John discovers the costume in which his flatmate got into. The fabric is classy and the ensemble so neatly bespoken, it's clear the doctor will never be able to allow himself the luxury to buy the same. He lowers his face, crashes the tip of his chin against his chest to look at his own shirt, with a very clear blue tone, on which he already had to re-sew a button and turns his head to the left, then to his right, before leaning forward. In the raised side where they're seated, there are men and women a bit younger than them, with approximate costumes and simple skirts. In front of them however, on the seats in front of the scene, he sees the same bank accountant he bumped into in the hall. It's clear that they're currently seated on the cheapest seats. So, why did Sherlock chose them?

"Sherlock?"

"Mh?"

"What are we doing here?"

"We're here to listen to music, John. You know nothing about it because you think music is a side dish like sauce you add to your meat, but do you know there are actually people who, when they're listening to music, do nothing else?"

"Okay, first I'm not a complete idiot. Secondly, did you really just compare music to food; you? Thirdly, we have the lamest seats. You don't even have space for your legs!"

"The cheapest," corrects Sherlock, his arms still crossed against his chest and his eyes fixed on the empty scene unlike the audience, getting bigger and louder.

John frowns and leans again against the barrier to get a better look of the fluffy seats so far away from them.

"There are still some empty seats, why didn't you buy the..."

The lights switch off gracefully, like a candle flame someone would have blown, and John's eyes open wide. He turns his head and Sherlock does the same. They look at each other and it's useless to count on the lack of luminosity to hide the discreet smile on his face. It's clear that if Sherlock could have paid for the first class seats, John could have never done the same and his pride would have never allowed his friend to pay for him. So here they are, both seated on squeaking folding seats with cushions as soft as stones, but at least, they're seated next to each other. It seems to be enough for Sherlock. At least, it's enough for John.


When the applauses accompanying the musicians stops and the conductor finishes to salute the audience, there are a few seconds of silence before his arms raise and the first violin starts. The melody is plaintive, the sound husky. John doesn't know Max Bruch so when he's discovering the sound like a child is discovering life, the shivers in his belly prove to him that all of this has a primitive strength he'd be a fool to try to describe. It takes a while for him to realise it's the first time he's in a room that big to listen to musicians this experimented. Even at his age, he still has new things to live. It's without any doubt the best news he had since a long time.

Softly, his eyes quit the scene and slid on the stalls made of first class seats. There's an old man with a trembling hand surrounding a cane, a woman a little bit further who hides her mobile blue-ish screen on which she's typing with her thumb. The further the seats are, the more they are filled - apparently the financial crisis does not only touch the detectives' assistant. He may have to turn his head on his right to admire the scene, however he and Sherlock are closer to the musicians than the people seated in the back of the room. After all, it's not that bad.

"Thank you for not wearing a jumper," murmurs Sherlock, leaned over him.

John smiles and leans too:

"It's not like I had a choice."

"Why, might they have disappeared?"

"Would you have something to do with it?

"It depends, do you have any evidence?"

"You hated them."

"Good, you have a mobile, but do you have evidence?"

"If I go through your bedroom, I think I'll find a few."

"Oh, that would be adorable to see you rummaging about in my cupboards."

John lowers an eyebrow and Sherlock smiles. They look at each other out of the corner of their eyes and jump with surprise when the first Hush! resonates far behind them. Seated as far back in the seat as possible like two punished child, they try to contain their laughter and pay attention back to the scene where the first violin, standing next to Denosa, excel in a solo which makes the doctor shiver. Does Sherlock shiver too? Or does he know the tune so well it doesn't touch him anymore? And is Sherlock going to cry, like in March? John is not sure if he would like it to be the case or not.

It's strange actually, it's the first time the ex-soldier is seated next to Sherlock, surrounded by so many people. The brunette has all the music discs of the world, so, why does he come here to listen to something he knows by heart?

"Do you have this CD?" whispers John, leaning over his flatmate again.

"Of course, John."

"Why do you come here to listen to it then? You know you're surrounded by normal people, right?"

"Of course we're surrounded by boring people. But there's something here you can't find in the recording," answers Sherlock, his eyes still fixed on Denosa of whom the gestures become quicker, which means the piece is almost over. "The unexpected," he finally smiles, turning his head to John and it's not really embarrassing if they're so close to each other that the blond man feels the breath of this flatmate against his face, because they have to be as quiet as possible, so it's the only reason why he accepts this proximity, of course.

John smiles. Sherlock not only translated in his own language the word normal in boring, but furthermore he said we instead of I. The doctor has never been gifted for foreign tongue, but this one, he's starting to really like it.

It takes him still one second before he looks at the scene again, on which the musicians speed up wrists and fingers, the audience's breath being as warm as the notes. The violins hurry and the flutes exhale even stronger than the ex-soldier who puts his elbows on the guardrail, like completely aspirated by this brilliant whirlwind. The apotheosis is cadenced by the cymbals, the bass drum and the conductor's chaotic gesture. The drumroll meddles with John's heartbeat and the last note has the magic force which urges any spectators on to their feet, standing to face to those musician they're applauding until their hands hurt.

With a quick glance on his right, John sees Sherlock on his feet, smiling. Coming here was definitely a good idea.


After the interval where John treated his thirst by discovering the 33cL water bottle cost £5.50 at the reception's bar, Sherlock and John got back to their seats before the lights died away again.

This time it's Sherlock who leans forward, his bottom barely hanging on the folding seat, his elbows on the guardrail; the reason is Hungarian. In his right hand, John presses a bit tighter the A5 paper where is written the program: Franz Liszt, Les Préludes, Symphonic Poems N°3, S.97. It's not a tune Sherlock's listening to in Baker Street's living room and John blames him immediately.

The first violins rumble a tender note, soft as a caress. It's not Bruch, it's not an expressive and dancing melody, it's the comings and goings of a wave on a calm sea which cradles the entire audience, almost timidly at first. John couldn't say why, and it's probably very naive, but it seems to him the note has the colours of beginning. It's like a promise. He doesn't know where the melody will take him, but God he's ready to follow it, body and soul. The melody looks like Sherlock, after all.

The percussion instruments join the race. Already gone the naivety, now it's the beauty of a fight Liszt seems to translate. And it's not John Watson who would withdraw on the battlefield. Without realising it, he leans too, presses the leather on his elbows on the barrier and turns his head toward Sherlock, but his flatmate doesn't do the same. The detective keeps his clear eyes on Denosa's soften gestures - and it's easy to see the drop of sweat at the back of his neck. There's no time anymore, not even South or North, it's one of those perfect moment where there's only music left, to their ears, their eyes and their wholly souls. How far away the Bee Gees are with their morbid promise.

"You know I'll follow you every next time you'll go see a concert, right?"

"If you're correctly dressed, I don't see why I would mind."

"Are we really going to spend the evening talking about the way I dress?" smiles John leaned over his flatmate.

"Unless you'd like to talk about the way you undress?"

John bursts out a loud laugh and Sherlock bites his inferior lips to be as quiet as possible, but it seems like it's already too much, as the infuriated whispers around them start again.

"Sherlock, we're going to get chucked out."

"Stop laughing at my jokes then," offers the detective like a challenge, smiling without any shame.

"Excuse me..." speaks a voice behind them." Could you stop gesticulating? I can't see a thing."

John simply waves to apologise to the man a row behind them and immediately shuts up. Sherlock does the same and this time his face doesn't express mischief anymore but concentration. The melody flies away, gets more complicated, the apotheosis is near, the blond man can see it on the tensed hands on the wooden barrier. And it's true it's the best part. Enchanted by the last notes, John holds his breath, nods his head in rhythm without even knowing it. It's so powerful the bass resonates in his body, making his heart beat and his head spin. It's invading all his body and this sensation of letting go, at least for a few seconds, is terribly new. Heady. Frightening. There's a weight without shape pressing his chest so he noisily inhales, already ready to apologise for the noise to the audience around him, when Sherlock suddenly gets on his feet.

There's one second of pure confusion, where only two violins and an oboe are still resonating in the odious mutism in which the room is suddenly plunged. The silence is a part of music, but this one is tinted with a deep red, overrunning the scene. John raises in his turn and the scream the harpist shouts out is the starting point of a long series of horrified cries from the first rows.

Sherlock catches his coat and faces the doctor; now.

"Let us through!" shouts John, riding awkwardly the legs of the few people still seated on their row. From the corner of his eye, he sees the panicked spectators on the lower floor, getting out as fast as possible in the blocked hallways. In this widespread panic, only a few crazed people are still looking at the musician stuck in the back left right corner of the scene and the screams make the air stifling.

The two men arrive on the lower floor and slalom against the tide between demented men and women who are pushing them without even seeing them. John is not quite sure why they're running at the root of the danger without even thinking about it - anyway, he doesn't have time to turning things over in his head. They finally arrive in front of the scene Sherlock climbs in a graceful gesture while John tries awkwardly to do the same, before coming closer to the musicians they're pushing back summarily.

"I am a doctor, please let me through..."

He doesn't quite know who has been hit or where, but the dark blood in which he's walking makes him realise the worst already happened. Laid down on his back, arms in shape of a cross and his eyes closed, there's a forty years old man. The left side of his face covered in blood. The doctor comes to his knees and leans two fingers on the man's neck but it comes as no surprise, he doesn't feel any pulse. Slightly, he turns the head of the dead man and pinches his lips when he sees the gaping wound right behind his left ear.

"Who moved the body?" shouts out Sherlock, turning on himself.

"He was there and I thought he had a stroke, and..." stutters a trembling man with a face whiter than his shirt.

"In which position was he before you touched him?" asks the detective, facing the man whose stammering incoherent words before collapsing on one of the chairs.

"Sherlock..." calls John, trying to calm down his friend at the same time as his own heart.

"Idiots! Does anyone remember in which position he was before the bass player decided to be the useless hero?"

"Sherlock !"

"Is there anyone here in this damn orchestra who is really useful?"

"Sherlock, for the love of God, shut up! It's no use, they're in a state of shock. Get in touch with Lestrade..." orders suddenly the doctor, looking daggers at his flatmate, before looking at the stupefied troop. "Don't worry, we're taking care of this."

From the corner of his eye, the blond sees the haughty face of the younger man, pulling out his phone to send a text to the DI before kneeling down next to him, carefully avoiding the blood his leather shoes won't probably like. "Tell me what you know."

"He was shot from a single bullet between the temporal and parietal zone. Killed instantly. The bullet didn't came out. Calibre... I don't know, we'll have to ask Molly."

"Where was he seated?" asks Sherlock raising his nose, as calmly as possible.

"Right here..." answers a man, pointing out an empty seat right behind the body with, only a few centimeters away, a horn covered in blood.

John turns his head to his friend and asks very low:

"Did you hear a detonation?"

"No."

The two flatmates look at each other for a long time and in each other's eyes, they can read the new and obvious anxiety which makes them live. In front of the man killed in the middle of the representation, John breathes out between his slightly opened lips and finally whispers:

"Well Sherlock, you got the unexpected."


 

Note: Did you listen to Liszt's Préludes yet? No? Well do it right now and be amazed by this marvel :). See you in two weeks! 

Chapter Text

Note: Hey there! Did you know I have a Tumblr in which is published today the map of the concert hall. I recommend you to take a look at it, to guide you through this chapter.
Beta: Morwen Maranwe - thank you so very, very much dear!
Reviews: Yes, please :D


When John Watson looks at the horn player's body as it is put on the stretcher deployed for the occasion, he doesn't even let a heavy breath escape from his slightly open lips. For certain, he should have eatensomething before coming here, because his belly hurts from being empty, yet he's dreaming about a glass of scotch. Only one, to not be caught by the familial malediction.

"Philipp Sherrer, 37 years old, horn player in the orchestra for six years. Single, no children. Lives with two flatmates in Marylebone with a dance teacher and a man we still don't have any detail about," states Lestrade outloud, dispatched on site in less than 20 minutes, looking at the stretcher with the body bag drawing away to the backstage.

"How's the rest of the group?"

"They're starting to realise. The psychology unit has been called."

"Good," answers John, nodding unconsciously, before coming back to himself thanks to his friend's hand, which leans against his shoulder.

"John, what were you doing here?"

"We came to listen to Denosa. Sherlock couldn't stop talking about it, so..."

The DI raises an eyebrow so low John feels so small.

"What?"

"You two? At the opera?"

"Greg, that's not..."

"The beginning of a long rumour about you two? Oh yes John, and trust me, it has already begun," smiles the older man, patting his friend's shoulder.

The doctor doesn't even have the time to let the hair on his arm ruffle when the forensic team, accompanied by Sherlock, come to meet them. The brunet is still wearing his coat even though it's not cold and John pertinently knows he's keeping it to differentiate himself from the rest of the inspectors around him. The ex-soldier doesn't really know why this coat has a space so big, but when Sherlock puts it on, the mouths go silent and the eyes open wide. It's like a super hero costume and even if the detective has nothing to do with Batman, at least they share the sense of the dramatization and they both provoke snobby fear. It's both completely ridiculous and totally effective.

"Sherrer was seated here," indicates one of the policemen, pointing a finger to an empty chair with only a small yellow sign with a 2 on it. "The bullet pierced the left rear side of his skull. According to the angle, the shooter was seated behind him, in the seats up there."

The agent gives a paper to the detective consultant, which he barely looks at, before giving it to John who almost puts his nose against it.

"In yellow, we and the ballistics' team highlighted the seats from where the shot might have been fired; seats 43, 44A, 43, 42B, 43, 42, 41 C or 37, 38 D."

"And the two hearts here, what is that supposed to mean?" asks John, putting his forefinger on two read hearts on the left side of the paper.

He raises his nose, quickly tries to find the spots they match with and sights when he finds the seats where his flatmate and he were settled. Lestrade and his agents burst out a loud laugh but Sherlock continues, seeming like he didn't even hear them:

"So, nine suspects. Do we have the names on the reservations?"

"That's useless, the shooter must be on a plane for Chili right now..." tries John, but no one seems to pay attention to him.

Instead, they all turn around when a young man jogs toward them before talking to the DI.

"We asked for the names at the reception desk sir, we should have them in under 48 hours. And sir, the spectators who stayed are waiting outside to be interrogated, sir."

"Sherlock?" asks Lestrade, turning toward the called on, who is already buttoning up his coat.

"Was one of them seated behind the orchestra?"

"No Mr. Holmes."

"If I didn't see anything, there's no reason those idiots saw something. Send them back home."

"Sherlock...", calls John with a muffled voice.

It takes a few seconds for the detective to understand he's being called to order, so he politely smiles to apologise and continues:

"If I didn't see anything, there's no reason those idiots saw something. Send them back home please."

John and Gregory raise their eyes so high in their orbits, Sherlock can only hope their eyeballs will make a complete turn on themselves and finally find the brains they've been ignoring for so long. The brunet doesn't wait a minute more and, with a gesture ridiculously way too sophisticated, he jumps off the stage and walks to the exit. John shakes the DI's hand, greets the rest of the agents and quickly catches up to his flatmate.

"Sherlock !" calls Lestrade, raising his voice. "Before we find the people who were seated in those damn seats, I'm prohibiting you to talk about the murder at Molly's birthday tomorrow, are we clear?"

The detective does a hazy gesture above his shoulder with his hand and pushes the swing doors by which he makes John goes before him.

"You heard him Sherlock, we're not going to talk about the case at Molly's birthday. The last time she invited us for her house-warming party, you made her grandma faint with your amputations stories."

"She asked me about what I was working on."

"But she didn't ask for details."

"People are never satisfied."

John raises an eyebrow and stops in the middle of the hallway covered with a red and soft carpet, obliging Sherlock to do the same before rolling his eyes with a weary face.

"All right, John, I won't talk about the dead horn player at the party."

The doctor smiles and resumes his walk, leaving the detective sighing out loud.

"Even if I have no idea of what we will talk about..."


As soon as John turns around, his hands occupied by two fresh Camden Hells he just paid for, he smiles, looking at the back table reserved by Molly. It's not really surprising, but when the young coroner invited Sherlock and him to this pub in South London, he thought they'd end up in an annoying party with four people tops. He couldn't be more wrong. In front of the fifteen or so noisy friends who are recalling some kind of a frisbee match which provokes hysterical laughter out of Molly and her cousin, he pinches his lips and gets closer to the table that is the least lively of the evening; naturally, it's Sherlock's table.

Molly had insisted over the telephone that the party was casual, but it seems like all Sherlock Holmes can do when it comes to coolness is a bespoken suit and a dark blue shirt. Maybe it's to compensate for it that John put on a simple white one.

The doctor gets close to the table where the detective's fingers frenetically tap, in front of the coroner's new boyfriend. The guy is named Andy Kerwell and he shook Sherlock's hand with such conviction that John immediately hated him. The blond man puts the two beers next to his flatmate's elbow and takes his place before hearing the voice full of sarcasm:

"So, you're a florist?"

"Botanist," corrects the young man, scratching nervously behind his ear as if he were passing an interview for a job.

"Did you hear that, John? The man takes care of flowers," smiles Sherlock to his friend, who's already rolling his eyes.

"Not e-ve-ry flower of course, I'm more specialised in wild flowers. I work very close, at the Greenwich park and today we received a new kind of Althaea officinalis, we'll plant them next week. You should come to see me one day, that would be fa-bu-lous," answers Andy, his hands clasped and his eyes bright with excitement.

"He's gay," concludes Sherlock, raising an eyebrow, and John nearly suffocates on his beer.

"I beg your pardon?" asks the botanist, who leans forward to hear the detective better; with the loud music around them, it's so easy to get misunderstood.

"Yes, okay," answers John, raising his voice to correct his flatmate's words. "He said, yes, okay."

"Andy, come dance with me!" Molly suddenly calls, catching her lover's arm before looking at Sherlock and John, who are holding onto their seats as if they were holding on to life. "Should I even suggest you come to dance with us?"

"Never ever," responds Sherlock, whose voice is still half covered by the deafening music - his better ally tonight.

"Maybe later," corrects John, smiling at Molly who salutes them before going back to the dance floor.

Sherlock very ironically smiles one second more before relaxing his face muscles. On the bench where he's seated, he crosses his legs and puts his elbows on the table before catching one of the two beers John brought back and inspecting it meticulously:

"That's not what I ordered," he curses.

"Of course not, but as they had no barbiturates at the bar, I took what looked the most like it."

"Can I at least drown in my glass?"

"I only live to see you try."

Sherlock raises an eyebrow, not really impressed by his friend's repartee, and lets him clink their drinks together - which has probably a great meaning for the doctor but which leaves impassible the detective - before they both bring their glasses to their lips.

"So that's beer. Not bad," concludes the brunet with a surprised face.

"So you are, after all..."

"Human?"

"British."

"Funny," he smiles ironically before looking away again.

John's glass is rapidly empty and maybe it's the good atmosphere, the exceptional weather, or the fact he already drank four beers, but tonight he wants to talk. Unless it's because of Sherrer's murder. John clearly remembers when he came back from Afghanistan, when life at Harry's was scaring him as much as it was calm. He would have given anything to have a bit of animation, adrenaline or a reason to live. Now, a simple walk to the opera and he comes home with a head full of images of a man whose skull has been pierced. For sure, he doesn't lack action anymore.

The songs come one after another in the pub and Sherlock and John are still the only ones seated in their corner, drinking a beer which is getting warmer between their fingers. For sure, it's not how they usually spend their Friday evenings and everything in their attitudes scream awkwardness. John tells himself they can leave early and with the clement weather, they can walk a bit before getting on the tube. It still takes a few minutes of silence between the two of them - but two minutes of intense chaotic cacophony in the pub - before John decides to seriously propose to his flatmate to move. He raises his head, slightly opens his lips, but Sherlock seems so focused on the dance floor that he closes them right away.

Holmes sometimes has this gaze so intense that all his body looks like a microscope. He's only coldness and analysis and during those times, even his skin seems so white that John holds himself back from putting a blanket on his shoulder. Tonight's different of course, because it's so hot in here they both lift up their sleeves. It's the result of the mix of alcohol, the proximity of all those people and this weird October month where no one would dare to wear a jacket. With the heat, Sherlock's hair is quite a mess. The darkness of the wet curl on his pale neck reminds John of his first teenage parties, first drinks and contradictory sentiments, and the ephemeral impression of being invincible because you're 16. John would like to ask Sherlock to tell him about his parties as a young man, but Sherlock is still looking at the dance floor as if it is a murder scene - which is a bit the case, given Andy's moves - so, John leans closer and speaks loud enough to be sure to be heard:

"What are you looking at?"

"Mh?"

"You've been looking at Molly's friends for an eternity... is there a problem?"

"Ah, no, no problem at all. It's hot in here, don't you think?"

"Yes, I heard on the radio it hasn't been this hot since October 1891..." answers John, tightening his hand around his beer.

"So, why would anyone wear a polo-neck?"

John frowns his eyebrows but Sherlock is still not looking at him. In his blithe posture, there are only his eyes which seem awake, fixed on an uncertain point among the dancing bodies that are moving slower, to the rhythm of the new song. The older man turns around, puts his elbow on the back of the chair and observes. On the dance floor, it's a mix of laughter, alcohol and shoulders pressed one against another, but in the middle, arms in the air and the hips waving, there's a young mixed race woman, with hair dark as the night tied in a ponytail and big brown eyes, who is wearing a turtle neck. By standing beside the sleeveless t-shirt and estival dresses, everyone is looking at her. By moving her hips that way, John is looking at her.

"She's sensitive to the cold," tries John without even blinking.

"Impossible, she moves way too much."

"Maybe it's trendy."

"In 2014? Really?" says Sherlock with irony.

"She's hiding something then."

And this time, given Sherlock's smile, he knows he's on the right track. They look at each other a second more and on the small table where their elbows are touching, they lean forward before starting a deduction game John is planning to succeed at this time. It's not an Olympic game where laws are clear and respected, there's no referee to kick off the drive, it's only a backstabbing and merciless sparring match.

"No ring. Spinster," starts John, fixing on the hand of their target who is dancing in some oriental gestures.

"Sophisticated make-up: seducer," adds Sherlock without letting his flatmate finish his sentence.

"Was the last one to arrive at the party. She lives far away."

"High heels. She came here in a cab: rich."

"Blackberry always near her, dark rings under her eyes visible despite the make-up... She has a job with high responsibilities. Give up now, Sherlock, I'll resolve this before you," smiles John, leaning forward without knowing it.

And maybe it's because of the lady's perfectly managed hip movements but John feels subjugated, aspirated. She doesn't see him, for sure she doesn't even know he exists, but there's something about her that attracts him like a hook that's gotten under his skin and that he knows would get him out of the calm and gentle water that he's hiding in. Little by little, the pub disappears; the coarse laughs, the alcohol and sweat, until there's only the woman and her hips left. She moves and moves again, hypnotises the doctor and it makes him want to see more. It's not sexual, it's not her body he wants to discover, but what she's hiding. No one moves like that, watches like that, lives like that. She seems above everything and everyone with an astounding simplicity and John is jealous. It's not worth it to try to hide himself behind other words, he's drunk anyway.

"She wearing a polo-neck to hide a collar," concludes Sherlock, finishing his beer.

The blond man explodes in laughter - the younger man can say whatever he wants but his lack of knowledge about the female tribe is definitely ridiculous.

"Okay, you lost..."

"I lost, John?" ask the detective, slightly turning his head to face him.

"Why would she bother to wear a jumper that hot to hide a cervical collar? Plus, did you see the way she moves her head? That doesn't make any sense."

"Oh, no, not a cervical a collar; a leather collar, John."

Sherlock's smile is so soft and confident, the older man has the nasty impression he's the one who lost, without even knowing why. He shakes his head, slightly opens his lips to say something but nothing comes out, so Sherlock starts again:

"Or strangulation marks."

"She would have been attacked before coming here? But she has her purse and no wounds, plus she seems just... happy."

"She must have been consenting then."

And while Sherlock's smile is softer, the deafening sound of the pub seems to deaden slowly and John comes closer to his friend. There's something weird, all the joy of the last instants seems to be on pause and left behind it an emptiness to which John would like to give a name.

"Her partner must have used his hands, marks are more visible and deeper, otherwise she would have put on a simple foulard. That would explain why she got here late."

"Wait, wait... what are you talking about?" asks John, leaning toward the brunet, his eyebrows so frowned his head hurts - unless it's because of the cheap beer.

"You never heard of it?"

"Never hear of what?"

"BDSM, John Watson."

The emptiness suddenly fills up and the ex-soldier doesn't need to find its name; it's here, big and imposing, flickering before his eyes, in his head and his chest tightens. It's the shock, no more, no less.

"I don't..." starts John, his cheeks as red as he's uncomfortable, but Sherlock doesn't seem to notice him as he's already turned his head to look at the young woman again.

"Some people find pleasure in loss of control, domination or pain, sometimes. Of course, it's frowned upon by society, hence, the members of these kinds of relationships are extremely discreet. So sometimes, a polo-neck is enough."

It's not only shock, it's also a monumental slap. There's also a certain discomfort which pins down John, because not only has he never, oh never, talked about sexuality with Sherlock Holmes, he's talked even less about BDSM. He slightly opens his lips, searches for something that he can say in the ocean of words like Holy Mother of God and What the hell, Sherlock?! that are wandering in his damn skull, but he's quickly stopped by a voice as soft as a breeze.

"Good evening Sherlock."

"Elisa!" smiles the called one before getting up on his feet and kissing the woman with the polo-neck on the cheek.

"So, you know Molly."

"We work together, sometimes. What about you?"

"We were together in college. It's great to see you, it's been a while."

"Yes it is."

"Would you like to have a drink?"

"Sure, I'll join you," she warmly smiles the detective.

John looks at the young woman disappearing to the bar and is beaten by the vision of Sherlock catching his empty drink, ready to leave.

"Sherlock, wait, do you know her?" he asks, grabbing his flatmate's arm. He's squeezing a little bit harder than he wished. "How do you know that? How do you know that she's into that stuff? Sherlock do you... do you do those things?"

They're so close it's evident to both of them that whatever Sherlock answers, he'll not be able to lie, so he shouldn't even try. John scrutinises his eyes—which are as clear as his genius is dark—his expressionless lips and his whole face to find the lesser twitch, the smallest shudder, but it's not an out of control muscle which betrays the detective. It's his smile, so frank and so honest that it's as painful as a fist against the ex-soldier's ribs. He's looking John straight in the eye, with no other look on his face except a smile that can only mean one thing. So it's John who quietly releases his arm and clenches his fingers where blood forgot to go for a few seconds.

Sherlock doesn't even turn around, he just disappears between the dancers in a morbid silence where all the unsaid things and the questions between them seem to be so heavy that it's John's respiration, short and oppressive, which suffers the consequences.

Because Sherlock Holmes didn't have to open his lips, but just stretch them to answer, and it was very clear to John Watson.

Yes.

Chapter Text

Note: Hey y'all! Once again, thank you so very much for each and everyone of your kudos and especially your comments. Reading about what you feel about this story is truly inspiring so please, comment as much as you want :D!

Also, I'm currently looking for a translator, capable to translate from FRENCH to ENGLISH. If you are interested, please write to me on Tumblr, or leave a note here and we'll figure something out :)

Beta: the amazing Morwen Maranwe. Let me tell you, this girl is pure gold. English is not my first language so I make quite a lot of "mystake" and she's sweet enough to, not only fix my chapters, but also to explain every correction. Thank you so very much dear <3


Stretched out on his uncomfortable bed, hands resting behind his neck, John's eyes fix a ceiling which is moving no more than he is. It's not even 8 o'clock but it's already so warm in this room which smells like sugar and almond, because Mrs. Hudson never took care of the bad ventilation between her kitchen and the rest of the building. However, he woke up ten minutes ago (unless it was half-an-hour ago?) to partially open the window overlooking the quiet street on this Friday morning.

The heat, it's the main subject right now, and for a nation hit by a low unemployment rate in a Europe in crisis, it's perfectly stupid. Between the small crackling radio in the kitchen and the free newspapers John is able to read in the underground, he learns theories more or less plausible about these historical temperatures. "An anticyclone coming down from the South" says the WRN Broadcast. "The worrying melting ice; how many deaths from now to 2016?" announces The Sun with a typography that is thick and vulgar. "Gay marriage and its disastrous consequences: how God plans to make society pay for this" he read once on a blog with gaudy colors and a content as questionable as the sweet and sour sauce in the cupboard above the sink that has been there since July.

John has never really quite understood this typical human need to transform every element into a drama without any shape or way-out. As if the totally precarious status of every human being on Earth isn't a burden hard enough to bear already, there has to be BBC, Channel 4 and The Daily Telegraph jumping from one serious case to another, hitting where it hurts and instituting a climate of perpetual fear where it's getting harder to move forward. However, John is convinced there should be things in life that are impossible to put in doubt, or demonise; elements on which it should be inconceivable to make money by creating an irrational terror. Like a good old cup of tea, warm and sweet, without any shady preservatives. Or a Harry Potter movie, without any absurd scandal about which actors drink or smoke weed. Or a polo-neck jumper.

A polo-neck jumper.

John inhales and twists on the mattress where his body sinks further down, his eyelids shuddering and his fingers getting tense. The night before, he didn't stay alone and dazed more than 10 minutes before Molly came to get him. He then helped her make Andy - as a perfect British man, drunk and slumped on a bench- walk to a cab, then he went with them to the coroner's flat on Trinity Street before carrying the florist to the couch. Certainly something no one would have done besides him, least of all the man who is supposed to be his best friend, who came back to Baker Street exactly 47 minutes after him.

47 minutes during which so much could have happened. How much can he hate Sherlock Holmes and his way of turning the simplest of sweaters into an obsession of which the ex-soldier would have to avoid? Because even if it's only a piece of fabric - perfectly belted on a curved body, of course - since Sherlock left the table and followed that Elisa, it's become so much more.

It's a question mark, an oasis made of troubled and dangerous water, a promise and a trap at the same time. It's a door through which the detective escaped without expressing anything but a smile. A door he hasn't completely closed and which John is scrutinising the small opening fiercely. He could open it, just a bit more, finally learn what Sherlock hides with all the turtlenecks he has crossed in his life. He could ask him. He could...

He has to leave it closed. With one jump he gets up and leaves the sheets still wearing his scent, which he doesn't recognise anymore, and opens the door - the only one he has the right to touch the handle of - before going down to the kitchen.


"So, Mrs. Perkins gave me her till receipt, and as I told her, she went to the pharmacy to order the adhesive for her dentures on Thursday and not on Tuesday. Bad thing, old age is -makes you lose your mind."

"Mrs. Hudson..."

"Ah yes, yes, here's your mail."

John discreetly rolls his eyes and sits at the kitchen table, an elbow pressed against his steaming cup, he stretches his right hand and catches the white envelops given to him by his landlady. Every time the woman comes up to bring them their mail, it's the same tune, a cheerful "Hello" escapes from their lips before the neighborhood seniors' news is explained to him down to the smallest private detail. John now has to share his breakfast with Mr. Jenssen's phlebitis, the alarming short-sightedness of Mrs. Blank and from now on, Mrs. Perkins' dangling dentures.

With a nod, he salutes his landlady, who goes down the creaking stairway and quickly separates envelops with his name and those intended for his flatmate. Noise from the back room makes him raise his nose; a glance at his watch and he stands up on his feet. Sherlock likes to drink his tea boiling hot, so the doctor fills the kettle. The familiar sound of the turned door handle and footsteps on the old parquet tells him his friend has just come out of his room and gone into the bathroom. He hears the sound of running water, imagines his friend washing his hands or putting a bit of cold water on his face, on this morning which is as hot as their tea. He's pretty proud he doesn't think about the awkwardness born between them the night before. Beer and deafening noise had to be the cause of John's embarrassment, but both of them are adults, so it's best to move on. John will no longer think of Elisa and it's as simple as that.

"Good morning."

"Hello there," answers John, turning to his friend to give him his cup, with extra sugar and a smile on this lovely morning, and for the first time today, their eyes meet.

A polo-neck jumper.

"Lestrade sent me Sherrer's address. He'll be over there at 10."

You never heard of BDSM, John Watson?

"John?"

"Hm?", finally gives off the ex-soldier's throat, who summarily shakes his head.

"Problem?"

"Nope. So, we meet with Lestrade at 10 at Sherrrer's place, okay, fine, always a great pleasure to search a dead man's house."

"He has two flatmates pretty alive, if it is any consolation... in any way," adds the detective, doing a vague gesture with his left hand.

John half smiles and Sherlock drinks his tea, the steam getting lost in his dark curls hanging over his forehead, eyes closed, a hand resting on his right hip. There's just the noise of the Boris Bike station construction invading 221B while the two men finish their breakfast in front of the mail they're meticulously opening.

"Is everything all right, John?" asks the detective neutrally.

"Everything is fine, Sherlock," answers his friend, with a voice just as fake.


At the corner of Blandford Street, there's a small café painted in a sapphire blue. On the front window, there's an A4 page, soberly framed, which the owner is cleaning with a small duster. Of course, the road hasn't been blocked, but with the three police cars parked on the pavement, the residents are slowing down, taking off one earpiece and trying to catch sight of the reason for the sudden police invasion. There are two officers in front of the black front door that John is crossing before following Sherlock up the building's stairway. They stop on the second floor where the right door is already opened.

Sherrer's flat is an astonishing mix of a life with roommates - as evidenced by the living-room furniture's disparity - yet perfectly tidied up and clear; in short, the only proof the tenants are all responsible adults. Compared to Baker Street's state, John is a little bit ashamed.

"Lestrade," salutes Sherlock, eyes scanning the room around them.

"Right on time," smiles the DI before shaking John's hand, as Sherlock's are deeply anchored into his pockets.

"Where are the flatmates?"

"In the kitchen. We're interrogating them. And before you ask, the night Sherrer died, the girl was at some kind of performance on the other side of town and the guy was in Belgium."

"Bedroom?"

"Down the hall."

The detective nods briefly and goes to the bedroom with John. The room is quite big and, just as the living-room, it's an example in regards to tidying up. The bed doesn't have a fold - which John's forehead is automatically jealous of - the drawer is cluttered with partitions of which are exceeding yellow and pink Post-its and on the left, next to the wooden desk, there's a broken music stand with a felt hat on top of it that looks kind of ludicrous.

"Sherlock, did you see the..."

"Pictures of Sherrer disguised on the occasion of theatrical shows? Inevitable."

The doctor takes one of the frames to inspect it. In the center of the picture, hands join with others, he recognises the man of whom he saw the brain, and seeing him now smiling under the spotlight is a vision way more joyful. Sherrer is a bit younger, unless the make-up makes him look so. He has a crown made of fake leaves and a beige suit on which small branch has been sewn - which seems very unpleasant to wear. All around John there are about twenty pictures, some of them taking place backstage, all centered on Philipp Sherrer, sometimes dressed up to a point where he's unrecognisable.

"There's no pictures of him as a musician."

"Come and help me, John," calls Sherlock, and right away the ex-soldier kneels next to his friend to help him take out a dark wooden crate from under the bed. "Predictable."

The two men look at each other and Sherlock smiles before pressing his two thumbs on the small metal end cap. He's so slow lifting up the lid John's heart starts beating uncomfortably. They never know what they'll end up finding. In more than a year spent beside him, there has been over one hundred instances where the doctor has seen Sherlock getting on his knees next to a bed before taking out a box from underneath, in which people have hidden their secrets; from the embarrassing picture of an ex they want to forget to human organs - that John wants to forget. He holds his breath and Sherlock, losing patience, opens the lid in one go.

"Clothes," curses the younger man, who seems terribly disappointed by this discovery - but John remembers seeing him dancing with joy when they found the livers in a Vuitton suitcase when they were working on the corrupted doctor case, so he's no reference.

"Costumes," rectifies John, pulling out meticulously a few wigs and fancy dresses awkwardly. "We never investigated a comedian's murder."

"A pathetic comedian," adds Sherlock without mercy before getting up on his feet and dusting his knees with a disdainful look. "I did research on the Internet. Sherrer has been in several lower-end shows. For the posterity, it's better to remember him as a musician from the London orchestra."

John smiles more than he would like to and follows Sherlock to the kitchen where Lestrade, standing next to the table, interrogates the flatmates. The young woman, Marina Jones, is seated on a plastic chair and her long uncovered legs are sufficient to prove to the whole room she's indeed a dancer. The elegance of her body is sculpted by her visible muscles on her milky skin and the tight bun above her neck is so well done it symbolises years of classical dancing training. Her wool dress has black and purple geometrical forms that she seems to have found in a second-hand shop.

Sitting in front of her is a man with really small brown and grey curls garnishing his thick head, illuminated by two blue, small, watery pupils. He's so large he seems to not be at ease on the small chair. His podgy fingers are pressing awkwardly on the table in the center of the room and the untimely sniffling makes him look like a big child.

"Bill Hendrik?" calls Sherlock after glancing at the notebook shown by Lestrade.

"Yes?" answers the called one, lifting up his red nose - colored by too much wiping.

"You have jam on your sleeve."

His small eyes go wide open before he looks at his flatmate, who seems as astonished as him in a dumbfounded manner. In the kitchen, the atmosphere is so embarrassing John can readily recognise the fragrance Holmes spreads every time he talks in public.

"How is the Nutcracker tour going?" suddenly asks the detective, facing the young woman.

"Well, yes, yes it's going great. We've been in London since Monday and we're leaving for Belgium in three days."

"That's why I was over there," says Hendrik all of a sudden, raising his finger like a student who wants to take the floor. "I am a head carpenter for the company and we were preparing the stage in Brussels when I heard about... Philipp."

"How did you meet him?"

"Seven years ago I was working for a modest production of A Midsummer Night's dream, and Philipp was playing in it," answers Bill, analysed by the other three men in the room. "We stayed in contact and then four... no, three years ago, Marina and I were searching for a new flatmate so I gave him a call and... well, he came right away."

"Nice place," tells John without thinking, nodding his head.

"Yeah, Philipp was paying a little more than us... They have a good salary at the London's Orchestra. As a result he got the bigger room."

"Philipp was a good man, indeed," answers Sherlock very seriously. "We cannot help wondering how this flat is going to survive without him - because it's clear with you always traveling all around Europe and you, incapable of even protecting yourself from getting jam all over your shirt, that you are not responsible for the perfect running of this flat."

The flatmates lower their eyes, slightly ashamed, and John can see in Sherlock's tense attitude the young man understands his sociopathy has taken over again.

"But that's okay," he begins again. "You should see the state of the flat where John and I are living, let me tell you, our landlady made copies of the deposit check."

"As flatmates," quickly corrects John, who feels compelled to say something, a hand raised to be sure to catch everybody's attention in the room. "We live together, as flatmates."

Lestrade sighs out loud and gets closer to the table to make Jones and Hendrik sign their deposition, and the doctor just has time to turn his head before glimpsing Sherlock's amused smile overlooking him.

"Sherlock, if you have any other questions..." proposes the DI.

"I'm done here," he answers before leaving the kitchen and disappearing into the hallway.

"He's right, Marina, Philipp was the nut one about cleaning everything. Without him, this place is going to be such a mess..." sighs Bill before bursting in tears - the alarm signaling it's time to leave.

John nods at Gregory and the two flatmates before quickening his pace to catch up with Sherlock in the sun-kissed street.

"You did that on purpose," grimaces the ex-soldier, short on breath and eyes half-shut because of the luminosity.

"What are you talking about, John?"

"To talk about the state of their flat. It had nothing to do with the case, you just wanted to tell them we were living together."

Sherlock unbuttons his suit jacket vest and gives away a delighted smile which provokes the doctor right the opposite.

"Damn, Sherlock it's not funny! It's like the heart Lestrade drew on the plan, in place of seats 14 and 15W; our seats. And you're not saying anything!"

"And it's obvious that you, you say something... But of course, you are like that."

"Wait, what does that mean?" asks John, stopping in the middle of the street, a hand resting on his forehead to protect himself from the sun.

Sherlock stops a few steps after, seems to sigh by the sight of his shoulders going down, and turns around before getting closer to John. He harpoons with his gaze he barely wrinkle despite the luminosity.

"You do not accept things that escape at your control, John."

The doctor scowls, searches his friend's face for the grin which will make him realise it's a joke, but nothing.

"I don't see why..."

"Why am I telling you this? I observed you and you are like this. You're incapable of letting someone else have control."

"Okay, if it's a joke because of what happened yesterday with Elisa, it's really lame."

"And what happened yesterday with Elisa?"

"I don't have any issue with... control," the ex-soldier feels obliged to say, not answering his flatmate.

"Do not get defensive, it's not a critique."

"I am not getting defensive!" John shouts, making the two teenagers passing next to them jump with surprise before apologising with a polite smile and putting his severe mask back on.

He barely has time to open his lips again before Sherlock takes a step forward and they're so close the tip of their shoes touch and Sherlock's head is enough to prevent John's face from getting hit by the sun.

"You can remove your hand," calls the detective neutrally, but John firmly keeps his fingers pressed to his forehead like a visor.

"Why?"

"Because I'm protecting you from the sun."

"... No, it's all right, I don't mind."

"And because I asked you to."

The doctor's eyes open wide under the surprise and his hand falters for one second before holding on to his face more firmly. Sherlock's way too close and there's way too many people around them, it's so troubling John wants to jump backwards, but he won't do that to please him. They glare at one another intensely, fighting each other with their gazes, a silent battle to see who will back down first. John doesn't move at all, both of his feet planted firmly on the ground, as if they are anchored in quick sand.

"What are you playing at, Sherlock ?" he exhales in a husky breath.

"You are so brave, John Watson."

Sherlock still looks at him for a few seconds, without any expression on his shaded face, before detaching himself from the body he leaves behind. With a pace as slow as it is confident, he crosses the deserted road where John feels so lonely that everything seems a bit wobbly. It's every particle of his body which seems to awaken at the sound of this word, everything in his person and everything that makes him who he is; a proud man, an ex-soldier, and a doctor. Of course he's brave, he has always been so and it has never been an option. So, left alone on the pavement, in the obscene silence buzzing in his ears, John wonders why, whispered by Sherlock's lips, it sounded so fake.

Chapter Text

Note: Oh my gosh, 101 kudos and over 2300 hits! You guys are the best! Thank you so much for your amazing support. Extra thanks for those who are commenting - you inspire me so much dear readers :)
Beta: Many thanks for my lovely beta Morwen Maranwe who is doing an amazing job. Thank you doll, I adore you!


"Craig Jennings, Anna Sanchez, Shery and Angie Walsh, Doris and Benjamin Cox, and finally, Jared Steele," presents Lestrade by throwing the file on his desk which John hastens to open.

Sherlock, standing next to the window, scrutinizes an indistinct point in the street, which is undoubtedly highly interesting seeing as he didn't even deign to turn his head when Gregory's assistant came to greet them. In the folder, which John reads scrupulously, there are photocopies of the reserved seats with the names stated by the DI and some quite terribly sad passport photos. Not as if anybody had ever looked good in a passport photo.

"We questioned them this week. Of course, nobody saw a thing; no weapon, either. In short, we are at a standstill. The ballistics' report cannot help us more. According to if Sherrer was reading the score or was following Denosa, the inclination of his head doesn't allow us to establish exactly where the shot was fired from. Of course, all the suspects remain under surveillance and can't leave the country, but if you could take care of that quickly, that would help us a lot - with The Sun getting involved in it, this story is becoming a heap of shit... Sherlock, for God's sake, are you listening to me?" the cop suddenly asks, losing his temper, passing a hand over his weary face.

The brown haired man hardly looks over his shoulder but deigns to move his lips to answer with a, "More or less," which makes the DI's eyes raise toward the heaven.

"John, did you at least listen to me?"

"Yes, yes, of course. We are going to question the first suspect this morning and we'll inform you."

"I knew that I could count on you. Well, on you, John, in particular."

The doctor smiles, following the example of his friend, and gets up to shake his hand, his left firmly attached to the file.

"Sherlock?" John calls up by opening the door, and suddenly the detective leaves the window to pass in front of the DI, smiling.

"Nice car, Lestrade. A Ford Focus, if I am not mistaken?"

"Well, thank you," smiles Gregory, who takes advantage of this unique chance to receive a compliment from this brat he's taken care of for a few years now. "That's right, how do you know that?"

"It just got impounded. Good day!"

The detective escapes through the door held open by his friend, whom he pushes by the shoulders to press him into the staircase and bring them to the farthest possible distance of the DI's shouts, who curses with insults so full of imagery that John's eyebrows jump with surprise.

"Remind me, how long have you know each other?"

"Is it really important?" asks Sherlock once on the pavement, already catching the file held by his friend to inspect the address of the first suspect.

"I need to know the exact date to register your friendship in the Guinness book of World Records."

"I do not see why our relationship is so extraordinary."

"He has not killed you in your sleep yet. It is very impressive, you know," answers John, getting back the file which the detective puts against his chest.

"Who says he has never tried?" smiles Sherlock, and this time the doctor can only do the same.

With quick steps, they cross the road where cars and cycles slalom, rarer in this November which begins to finally cool, and go down Great Smith Street, their noses raised to inspect the streets' name.

"We begin with Craig Jennings, then?"

"He works at Stanford & Wells, it is two steps away."

"Stanford & Wells? Well, shit. I hate it when we have to question lawyers, they always find a way to get by without answering any of our questions."

Five minutes is enough for them to reach number 4 Dean Bradley Street; the building which they enter is of neo-classic inspiration, nevertheless, completely recent. Leaned on the reception desk, John lets Sherlock present them to a young woman in a blue dress who tells them to follow her. She doesn't seem more surprised than that to see them and doesn't even bring out the traditional phony excuse of, "Mister Jennings is not available at the moment, may I take a message?" Maybe her boss expressly told her that she could bring him every person relative to the investigation, but the fact remains that this proof of accessibility shows the doctor that the lawyer is nicer than John thought.

They walk for a long time in endless corridors, with walls covered by not-really-pretty abstract paintings which the ex-soldier would never see hanging on Baker Street's walls. They meet men as beautifully dressed as Sherlock, and John once again doesn't take offence at his own completely human appearance. The young woman has to swipe her badge three times to take them through doors which make them sink always deeper into the building, and when the distant smell of gasoline tickles the nostrils of both men, they look and finally understand: the car park.

The secretary pushes a heavy door open and points with her index finger to one of the rare sedans parked at the bottom of the immense room.

"You will find Mister Jennings over there," she informs them before backtracking.

Both friends look at each other, frown slightly, and approach the car of which the bonnet is opened, hiding an unstable shape which seems to dance on the sizzling air that comes out of the radio.

"Craig Jennings?" asks John, incredulous.

The bonnet closes and the face of a young man comes to light, around thirty years old, with short dark hair and two big eyes made of a hot brown which are looking alternately on both newcomers. The man wears very sober black pants and a shapeless white T-shirt, made dirty by the grease which has invaded up to his hands, which he wipes against a grey rag.

"Yeah, it's me. Can I help you?"

"We're to ask you some questions concerning the concert at the Royal Hall Festival," answers Sherlock, eyes wrinkled, precisely deciphering the man in front of them.

"I am John Watson and this is the detective Sherlock Holmes," the blond is obliged to specify by pointing at his friend, before starting again. "It won't take long, could we go to your office?"

"Hem, yes, of course, well I work here actually," says the man, with a saddened smile.

"Here?" John wonders by raising an eyebrow.

"He is a driver, John," smiles Sherlock, not dissatisfied to be able to calm down the doctor's enthusiasm and his visceral hatred of lawyers.

The blond coughs briefly, shakes his head one time, and crosses his hands behind his back, an unconscious gesture which proves he hands over the reins to Sherlock, who advances a step to scrutinise their first suspect.

"Mister Jennings, you were at the concert on Wednesday, in a seat which was well, completely respectable. Thus, it must have been a present from your employer. You did not leave at the interlude and, nevertheless, it is clear that Liszt is not your favorite composer, considering the contemporary music which you're listening to right now. Why, then, did you go to this concert if, clearly, you fell asleep over there? "

"I have a..."

Sherlock raises a hand which he imposes in front of the young man's face that silences him immediately, and John approaches to reassure him with a half-smile.

"Don't worry it is his natural way to work."

"I shouldn't say anything, then?"

"You've never heard about Sherlock Holmes?" John cannot refrain from asking with a small chuckle always totally bewildered to meet people like him.

"Of course he has never heard about me, he does not read newspapers - except those that tell of sports or automobile events. He is trying to become enlightened, judging from the fact that he accepted the tickets his boss didn't want. New relationship? No, seen the state of your teeth and the rest of kebab which is lying on your seat; it is obvious that you do not take care of yourself to please others. Searching for a new job? Who would hire you..." Sherlock laughs before starting again more seriously, "Your ring finger still carries the mark - slightly visible, I admit - of a wedding ring... Divorced, then. Oh, that's it. You're divorced and you lost, lost what, the house? No, in your file it is indicated that you live near London Bridge, very good district. There is something, something which obliges you to regain control of yourself, something which..."

"Your child," interrupts John with a quiet voice.

Jennings shakes his head with difficulty by pushing his rag into his back pocket before leaning against the bonnet of the sedan.

"His name is Tim, and he's six years old. It's been a year since his mum and me divorced, even though it's been years since I've been able to stand her. I don't give a damn 'bout her, she can bleed me all my cash or the flat my mum left me, but I need to get my son back. He don't feel good with her, y' know? Eleonora, she shouts all the time and since she started datin' her cook, she takes even less care of Tim. He has to stay in remedial courses till 19 hours even though she don't work, and I told the judge that I could take care of Tim at the end of school, my boss agrees, but the judge said no. She had a better lawyer than me. They said I were stupid and that I wouldn't know how to take care of the kid. I want to show 'em that I'm not dumb. This is why I looked for a job here. Mister Stanford, he's kind and even if I'll never have the money to pay him, I want to do a good job for him so that he'll agree to help to get Tim back."

Listening to his gut, John approaches to prevent Sherlock from saying something that will hurt this broken father with sad eyes and smiles at him.

"We are sorry... But we didn't come to speak about that. I know that you have already spoken to the police concerning the evening and that you had told them that you saw nothing, but the slightest detail can help us. Please, think carefully..."

"Well, as Mr. Holmes said, I slept and it's when all these people began shouting that I woke up."

"All right, people began to shout and what did you see?" intervenes Sherlock, nevertheless with a quiet voice.

"I was... Heum... Still sat. And all these people stood and turned to the scene. Except a guy, I think. It was quick but I saw him on the back row and he stayed sat down. He was with a chick, sorry, a woman . She didn't look, either, and she took her stuff and they were the first ones to leave."

John and Sherlock look at each other and the detective resumes, as cool as a cucumber.

"All right, and how did this man look?"

"Quite small. And fat. He were walking strangely."

"Could you recognise him if you saw him again?"

"Oh, nope. I just turned my head quickly, you know. I didn't know someone got shot. I had no idea they could be guilty."

Sherlock takes out of the file that John is still holding against him, and brings out the seat plan before spreading it over the sedan's bonnet.

"Thank you for your participation but I'll determine if they are guilty or not. Where were they sitting?"

"Somewhere over there, I believe," indicates Jennings by crushing his dirty finger on two seats, and at least neither Sherlock nor John need to take out a felt-tip to make a mark.

"Very well," concludes the detective by folding up the plan and giving it to John.

"And, if you talk to Eleonora, don't tell her I spoke to you about Tim, eh? Afterward, she's just gonna invent bullshit and say I said she was a bitch. I've never said she's a bitch. Well, I said it now but just to tell you that I didn't say it. You won't tell her, right?"

Sherlock closes the buttons of his jacket and shakes his head slightly - probably excessively irritated by the completely rough syntaxes of the driver - and smiles, looking at his flatmate.

"It's amazing to see how much Mr. Jennings is controlled by his wife's spitefulness."

John's stomach squeezes up at the mention of the word that has haunted him since the visit to Sherrer's place. He smiles to hold back flowery insults that he learned so well from Lestrade.

"I don't know if 'controlled' is the word, Sherlock..,"

"Well, his life's made so that he is conditioned to comply with certain obligations, therefore, I think we can say that he is controlled, yes. For sure, we shall not say that he is dominated, because this is completely different," says the detective with the simplest smile.

"Very well, seen like that, everybody is controlled by something then," laughs John bitterly, crossing his arms against his chest and facing his unbearable flatmate with totally inappropriate ideas.

"Of course, John. Everybody."

"Even the two people - other than Mr. Jennings - present in this car park?"

"Even those two people," confirms the younger one with a sign of the head.

"What are you talking about?" intervenes Craig Jennings, with a lost look on his face and a trembling voice.

"Nothing. Thank you for your time," concludes John by turning on his heels, followed by Sherlock, carefully staying some steps behind him.

They're backtracking, seeing the same paintings that are still so ugly, the same lawyers who are still so unbearable that John carefully avoids looking at them so as not to be tempted by the desire to scream at one of them. Even if it would be much more intelligent to shout at Sherlock. And even more intelligent to replace the shouts with words, because they really need to speak about this obsession that the detective has for this domination thing. And all this began because of a turtleneck... Unless it began before. In brief, domination or not, the fact remains that to mention their private life in front of a suspect is a mixture of non-professionalism and total disrespect, and it is this last point which still has John's knees trembling.

It is stupid; they are only words and for a soldier who went to war, it is not a set of consonants and vowels which will put him on the ground like that, but that touches a point in his stomach so deep it seems miles and years away from what he really is; and yet, that calls into question everything. In such a disturbing way, John wonders what all of this really hides.

"You want to interrogate Anna Sanchez now or would you like to discuss what controls the girl at the reception desk? Ah, wait, look at the garbage man on the pavement there, do you believe he's more controlled by the collection of cardboard or glass?" suggests John with irony and clenched teeth, but before Sherlock is able to pronounce the slightest word, he feels his pocket vibrating and gets his mobile out of it, before sticking it on his ear.

"Hello?"

"John Watson? Doctor Jones of Saint Thomas' Hospital. Are you Harriet Watson's brother? "

The heart of the doctor misses a beat. He waves at Sherlock to make him stay silent. There's always this one phone call which we dread, the one which rings in the middle of the night and pulls us out of our life to plunge us into a nightmare of which we had never imagined the existence of. For John, the phone call arrives at 11:02 am.

"What happened?"

"She had a bad fall, but her vital diagnosis is not compromised; fracture of the fibula with a small movement which we reduced with a fixed immobilisation. She just came back from the recovery room and as you are the person to contact according to her insurance..."

"I'll be right there."

The soldier hangs up and turns around to discover Sherlock already on his heels, his face more concerned than ever - of course, he has already understood.

"Do I have to come with you?"

"No, don't. I have to go to see her... You... Well... I have to go," he ends with a firm voice, hand already raised to stop a taxi.

John has never loved hospitals. It is stupid for a doctor, but that is the way it is. As with most children, he discovered for the first time the cold and sterile atmosphere of a hospital one Sunday, during a family visit to see his grandmother with a new hip - however in plastic. He remembers having been struck by the silence, only punctuated by the humming of the machines which held alive the entire geriatrics department. When he wanted to be a doctor - but his parents couldn't afford to pay for him to go to a renowned school - and he ended up doing a training course of military medicine, the silence was not really something that he met again.

For the family of the sick person, we dim the voices, we speak slowly, we hide the inhuman muck-up which takes place behind the scenes; between the rooms of the nurses in depression and the operations rooms where we open, dissect and close someone like a piece of meat. So, when John Watson crosses the door of the London Bridge Hospital as a visitor, all which is murmured roars in his ears, and these things that we cannot see jump to his face.

In the room where his sister stays, there are 4 other busy beds, hidden behind curtains that have been closed. Of course, Harry is claustrophobic so they left hers opened, even if she sleeps soundly, dulled by medicine. She has purple-encircled, swollen eyes and her cheeks are red, punctuated with visible bursted veins. Her right leg is wrapped in an impressive plaster cast and her amorphous arms are lazily resting on her stomach.

"Well, hello big sister," he murmurs, grabbing a chair which he scrapes against the lino ground to take a place next to Harry.


When John opens his eyes, it's because the grandchildren of the old man on the bed on the opposite side are playing with the blinds, screaming the song of an advertisement. The ex-soldier gets ready to smile at their mother, sat on a chair similar to his, but the woman doesn't even make the start of a gesture of excuse to the rest of the room, so, he swallows his useless kindness. If Harry was awake, she would have shouted at the kids without hesitation and would have received apologies from their family, the medical staff and the Queen mother gathered. She has that, his sister, this power to say out loud what the youngest of the Watson thinks silently. Of course, John envies her that.


After his fourth journey to the vending machine which is short of M&M's, John finally stops on the seventh floor terrace to look at the city wrapped in a night punctuated by thousands of small enlightened windows. He closes his jacket and realises that it would finally be time to look for his jumpers, hidden by the good care of his joint flatmate. And as the wolf that Sherlock Holmes can be, John just has to think of him for his mobile to vibrate.

Mrs. Hudson gave me a dish covered with aluminum foil. SH

The doctor cannot refrain from smiling and replies immediately.

Knowing her, it's edible.

Then that is intended for you. Should I leave it on the kitchen table or do you prefer that I bring it to you? SH

The blond raises an eyebrow, his mouth hidden in the collar of his jacket which he raised, his left hand inside his pocket's warmth.

That's the second time that you've suggested accompanying me today; is everything all right, Sherlock?

Too dry? He adds before sending the message:

That's the second time that you've suggested accompanying me today; is everything all right, Sherlock :D?

Too stupid.

That's the second time that you've suggested accompanying me today; is everything all right, Sherlock?

And this time, he presses his thumb to the Send button. The answer is not immediate, so he walks slowly in the cold, hums quietly by skipping on the spot to warm himself a little. When he returns to his sister's bedroom again, he will be obligated to switch off his cell phone because of the electronic waves. He doesn't really want to switch off his cell phone.

Did you really mean what you said earlier, in the car park?

And this time, he doesn't even read his message again before sending it. There is something so much simpler, when it comes to sending texts. It is easier for John to express things which he wouldn't even think in front of Sherlock. Unless it's a matter of courage, he isn't quite sure.

Yes. SH

He inhales and stops walking to answer.

There are things I have to take care of, Sherlock, that's the way it is. If that's enough for you to say that I have a problem with control, then okay, I have a problem with control. Happy?

And you, are you happy? SH

I don't know if it's the correct word. It isn't something that I've thought about. And even less that I've called into question.

Do I have the right to call it into question? SH

John gets ready to answer, but his mobile vibrates again immediately.

Do I have the right to call you* into question? SH

There is something in you, John, which you do not even know, something that I observed. That I feel. That I want to make you discover. And I think about it. SH

Often. SH

You switched off your cell phone, right? You returned to see your sister. SH

Obviously, Harriet is incapable of taking care of herself. SH

Take good care of her, John. SH

One day, you will accept that someone takes care of you. SH

Chapter Text

Note: More and more kudos and also comments! Thank you guys, it means the world to me. And lots, lots of love to Morwen Maranwe who is an amazing beta and a wonderful human being.


More hot water on his fair hair covered with some cheap shampoo and John finally turns the creaking faucet off. Cursing the coldness which crawls like a snake on his wet skin, he skips outside the shower of the first floor and wraps himself in the towel he prepared on the edge of the sink. With a hand, he quickly removes the vapor on the small mirror and inspects himself - blurred, of course - before ruffling his hair with the towel. He heard Sherlock coming out of his room approximately ten minutes ago and now, according to the noises he hears at intervals, he can deduce the detective is in the kitchen.

Yesterday evening, he had returned home long after the end of visitation hours, playing on his doctor's status to guarantee to his colleagues that his alcoholic sister would need to see a familiar face when she woke up. They spoke for a long time about the tests they had made her undergo before the operation, which revealed an alcohol level so high in her blood that even their father would have found it indecent, and then talked about psychological help she could benefit from once she was back on her feet. Dulled by medicine, Harry woke up twice, if 'waking up' is a term which can be used when somebody drools approximately three words while opening half of an eye. They weren't able to discuss her fall, or the bottles found at the foot of her bed by the first-aid workers, so John already planned to return to the hospital as soon as possible to speak to his sister about a detoxification, which is becoming more and more vital.

Once back in Baker Street, the doctor hadn't taken any offense at the faded lights and the silence. He had walk directly to his room, before falling asleep still half dressed, hand tightened around the mobile which he hadn't switched off after his small tour on the terrace. But that's something Sherlock doesn't need to know.

Finally dressed, John goes out of the wet bathroom and discovers his joint flatmate in the kitchen, standing next to a table on which he put a newspaper which he goes through with two delicate fingers. His right hand around a steaming cup, the brown-haired man just raises his eyes to greet the newcomer.

"How is she?"

"Bad, otherwise she wouldn't have fallen dead drunk down her staircase - is there some hot water left?"

"I've already served you."

The blond man thanks him with a nod and leans against the least used counter before slowly savouring his green tea with subtle flavors of grapefruit.

"You went to question Anna Sanchez?"

"No, I waited for you. I need my blogger to deduce if a suspect has a child he wants to get back."

John smiles over the perfumed steam of his hot drink, which he turns slowly to melt the sugar Sherlock thought of adding.

"What do you think of Jennings?"

"He's a bloody idiot."

"Concerning the case, I mean."

"Ah. He is innocent. He wouldn't do a thing that would prevent him from seeing his son."

The detective finally closes the newspaper and gets ready to throw it away. John watches him bending next to him to aim at the rubbish bin and they are almost as close as when they visited Sherrer's flat; when Sherlock spoke to him about this control thing for the first time. They have to speak about it.

"Are you ready?"

"For what?" John swallows heavily, tightening his fingers around the ceramic which burns his skin.

"To go interrogate Sanchez. She is married to Amos Sanchez, one of the musicians who was at the performance the night of the murder, and I'm dying to know which other musician he's sleeping with."

"He's cheating on her?"

"Obviously, why would she have attended the previous five performances otherwise?"

John smiles, catches the jacket Sherlock throws at him from the lounge with his free hand, and shakes his head.

"You know Sherlock, for a sociopath, you are fucking brilliant."


When both men ring at 190 Westbourne Grove, they don't speak about the fur coats they see a few meters away from there, and about the restaurants with exorbitant prices, offering dishes John didn't even know existed. The house which they face is painted with a dark grey. They wait no more than one minute before a woman comes to open the door.

"Yes?"

"Madam Sanchez? I'm Sherlock Holmes and here's my assistant John Watson. We're here to ask you some questions concerning ..."

"Yes, yes of course, come in," the woman interrupts him, letting them enter.

John climbs the last step and passes in front of their host. He finally discovers how tall she is. Half Asian, she must be about forty, as you can tell by the lion's wrinkle on her forehead. She has bobbed hair made of a dense black. She barely has make-up on her eyes but her lips are painted with a pink coral lipstick, and though John is not a follower of highly philosophic readings such as Vogue, even he can say she chose that color to look younger. Her left hand is wrapped in a splint which she hides under the sleeve of a two piece suit of deep blue, the beige end of her shoes showing. Not even heels. John has no excuse to be the smallest one here.

"Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you," answers Sherlock, eyes already scrutinising everything around them in the lounge where they are led.

Both of the men take a seat on a leather sofa which goes shrieek under their buttocks and John has a moved thought for his armchair back at the clinic.

"Tell us about the evening," asks the detective, crossing his long legs slowly.

"I've already told everything to the police."

"Obviously you didn't, because the murderer is still out there and because you were placed a few meters away from him. Unless it was you?"

"I beg your pardon?" the woman laughs, statically.

"Madam Sanchez, you're married to a musician of the orchestra, right?" intervenes John, too comfortably seated in the warmth to be kicked out of the house because of his flatmate's indelicacy.

"... Yes. I am a harpist but I fell off a horse a few weeks ago. I cannot play before December."

"Why did you go to the concert, then?"

"To support my husband. And I love Listz."

"Enough to go to listen to it six times, always in the same seat?" asks Sherlock.

Anna Sanchez pinches her lips in such a controlled way that John can only mentally bow before the deductions of his friend; only women with tainted honour know how to hide their feelings.

"It was easier to reserve that way with Royal Concert Hall," she answers without any emotion in her voice.

Sherlock shakes his head once and rests all his back against the sofa's pillow. John continues.

"You knew Mister Sherrer, then?"

"Barely. We are more than 80 permanent members of the orchestra. We mainly meet for the rehearsals and traditionally go to eat all together the day before a first performance, but I never really spoke to him. He was rather eccentric, you know. He liked surrounding himself with a lot of people and he spoke, a lot. I was never really close to this kind of personality."

"It still must have been a shock that he was killed in the middle of the performance..."

"Of course, the idea that a musician can be shot down on stage is terrifying."

Definitely, the resentment she feels about her husband is so tangible as her terrible quietness makes the flatmate understand that the idea doesn't displease her.

"What post does your husband occupy?"

"He is the Second violin."

"Then he was seated on the left side of the stage, is that correct?" asks John who tries to remember the room.

"Yes, he saw nothing either, if that is your question."

"And what post does she occupy?" suddenly asks Sherlock.

"I beg your pardon?"

John turns his head and the brown-haired man nods to make them understand that he'll be silent from now on. So, here they are; Anna Sanchez knows that Sherlock knows and John knows that Anna Sanchez knows that Sherlock knows, and everybody keeps silent about this adultery with as much lightness as a rural picnic during a sunny. God, how aristocratic families are difficult to manage...

"During the performance, would you have seen anything strange? A sleazy spectator, a strange noise..."

"No," she confirms so dryly that John keeps silent immediately.

A telephone rings in the kitchen and the woman gets up, apologizing automatically. The doctor loudly sighs, as if this heavy atmosphere had led him to forget how to breathe, and falls against the sofa's pillow too, turning his head toward his friend who explains immediately:

"She saw nothing because she had her eyes fixed on her husband."

"It's oppresive how she refuses to speak about it while, clearly, we all know it," replies John, bewildered.

"Which is common in this kind of well-to-do family."

"She is completely controlled by appearances."

John doesn't move any more, amazed by his own sentence. Not the best idea to speak about it at a suspect's place.

"I mean, because apparently everybody is controlled by something..." the doctor tries to explain by massaging his neck, hiding his face behind his forearm.

"Very good deduction, John. What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Did you find out what you are controlled by?"

"I'm sorry I had to take that call," sighs Sanchez, returning to the lounge. "Do you have all the information you need?" she asks, lazily raising her eyebrows to show her profound boredom to both men, who leave the sofa which goes shriieeek again - certainly to say goodbye to them.

"We're done," retorts Sherlock by coming to shake her hand and before she closes the front door behind them, he turns around to add, "I found that the cello player in the third row was particularly bad."

Anna Sanchez opens her eyes and for the first time that day, the dry botox of her cheeks lets perceive an appearance of human reaction: a touched smile.

"Yes... It is a vulgar young woman."

"And certainly not very interesting in the long run. I imagine she attracts men for whims without future. You can't build anything with this kind of woman. Well, good day Mrs Sanchez."

The woman hardly shakes her head and slowly closes the door, plunging both men into the usual cold of the capital.

"Guilty?" asks the doctor once they leave the front steps.

"Are you kidding? If she had had a weapon, she would have aimed at her husband and not at Sherrer."

John smiles and waves a hand at the car which lets them cross, before resuming:

"Why did you do it, Sherlock? You're incapable of consoling a father of whom we took the son and yet you feel sorry for a woman whom her husband cheats on?"

"I did what you couldn't do."

"What? Don't be stupid, I could have..." he begins to laugh, but Sherlock immediately stops him by raising a hand to catch his attention.

"Stop. You don't have to take care of everything, you know. Let me handle certain things for you, all right?"

"Why?" John smiles to hide any other terrifying emotion growing in his belly.

"Because you are unhappy, John Watson."


Later that day, back at Baker Street, on the first floor living-room's sofa , John sorts out his sister's insurance papers. The afternoon spent by her side was a new ordeal in their fragile relationship. Unmistakably, Harriet is well woken now, seeing the scandals she made when she respectively discovered the dress the hospital gave her, her lunch, and the fact that there was no TV in the room. They didn't speak about alcohol, under the doctors' advice and that's not something John really missed. In the meantime, he took the necessary brochures to register her in an expensive but renowned detoxification program.

He catches the empty envelope on which he wrote his accounts with a pencil and inhales through his nose. If he manages to combine the current case and his half-time at the clinic, he should be able to make it.

One hand rubbing his dry and sleepy eyes, he consults the hour on his mobile. It's past midnight and tomorrow looks to be as challenging as the other days of the week. Yet he can't make the decision to tidy up everything and to go to bed. The prospect of switching off the light and ending up alone in front of himself isn't very exciting.

You are unhappy, John Watson.

It was a dirty, low blow; how Sherlock used his first and last name to emphasise his deductions. John didn't answer anything - of course, what can you reply to that? - he just nod his head once, a mechanical inheritance of his military training, to prove he understood, then they left without a word up to the mortuary where Sherlock proceeded to inspect Sherrer' body for himself, in spite of the advanced examination which Molly Hooper had already made under the pressure of Scotland Yard and The Sun combined.

John had remained seated on a plastic chair, looking at his flatmate wrapped in his long black coat, swirling around the white naked body, and rocked by the chiaroscuro of the scene, not a word had gone out of his mouth. Of course, Sherlock found nothing, John deduced nothing and this waste of time had only consolidated them in the respective muteness.

Combat, John is used to it. He fought next to twenty-year-old young men, against an enemy who he had never quite seen the outlines of but whom he had smelt the blood of. He even grew up with an alcoholic father and a sister who was a fan of Madonna; for sure, John's familiar with battlefields. Still, today everything is harder than what he crossed in his life. Maybe it's the old age, the fatigue, or both combined, but his shoulders don't seem as solid as before. And the prospect is harrowing

He pushes away the papers which still need to be filled out and gets up to unwind his legs in the silent lounge. At every passage in front of the corridor, he glances at the door at the end of it. He knows Sherlock is working in it since he returned from the hospital because he heard some noises, but he never went to knock there.

Unhappy.

How could John be unhappy? He is a man – he's not a child, to begin- he has his two arms and his two legs, a roof for the night and a filled refrigerator - well, most of the time. So, maybe Sherlock grew up in a family where his parents expressed their feelings with delicacy, during perfectly healthy and well-balanced conversations, the fact remains that at the Watson's, they never learnt to question their feelings, and even less to juggle with nuance. Because nuances are like a snow globe. At first glance, you believe your world is a perfect and motionless scene, but it's enough to shake it with nothing but a small wrist movement before waking up hundreds of small flakes, which come to blur the fanciful idea you had made of your life. John's family never wanted to shake a snow globe.

The corridor's wooden floor creaks and the doctor raises his eyes. Sherlock finally comes out of his room, still dressed, his eyes a bit puffy - doubtlessly pressed for too long behind the microscope which disappeared from the kitchen table a few weeks ago. They greet each other with a nod before the detective looks down towards the papers which sprinkle the ground, and bends to catch one between his long fingers.

"You spoke to her about the rehabilitation?"

"Not yet. It's already hard enough to make her take paracetamol... She says medications are poison."

"Ironic."

Sherlock inhales, puts the paper on the sofa and slides his hands in the pockets of his trousers before turning back, promptly stopped by the voice of his flatmate.

"Sherlock, wait."

Slowly, inch by inch, the detective turns around, with his chin low and his eyes focused on the doctor. His face expresses nothing, but Sherlock Holmes just has to be himself for John to feel exposed.

"Did I miss something? I mean, the last few days, you have been..."

"Thoughtful?"

"Creepy."

"Creepy?"

"You constantly take care of me, you suggest accompanying me to the hospital or managing certain things for me," he enumerates, using his fingers in a useless gesture.

"And that worries you?"

"That's not you," John decrees with a tone meant to end all discussions.

Sherlock raises an eyebrow and John mentally congratulates himself for at least once in his life achieving to surprise the detective. But the pride is short-lived when the face of the brown-haired man suddenly gets tense and his jaw squeezes. Sherlock looks disappointed. John had already seen Mycroft being the origin of this expression, but how he feels pitiful for being the reason right now.

"I see," Sherlock finally answers, and before John can reply he takes his hands out of his pockets and gets closer to the soldier.

With every new step, the doctor believes that Sherlock's going to stop, in vain. Sherlock is getting closer and closer, until they find the same awkward closeness of the pavement in front of Sherrer's place. There is no sun and John wonders what will be the excuse of his flatmate this time, but the youngest one says nothing. Delicately, he raises his hands and it's obvious he takes his time to give John time to step backward, to shout or to push him away, maybe. But John does not move, because for once in his life - only once - he wants to know what it feels like to be motionless. They look at each other, don't even blink even if it burns their pupils - some kind of male pride, as usual - and when Sherlock finally puts his hands on the cheeks of the man he overhangs, it's not soft. It's not violent either. It is a gesture so confident that it looks like they have been making it all their lives.

The thumbs of the detective rest in the hollows of the soft cheeks, the rest of his fingers waiting under his jaw, and as if his neck had no more use anymore John feels his head supported in a way he had never known before. That lasts one second, maybe two, but it's already sufficient to frighten him, because that proves to him that it is possible to get rid of this nasty weight which presses against his back, his lungs and all of his old body, for so many years.

"You want to know if you can trust me, before you let yourself go."

John doesn't answer and Sherlock smiles. It's not his "I've won" smile, nor the superior one which he brings out when a suspect admits to being guilty. It's such a discreet smile that it's necessary to be as close as they are to see it. He just has the left corner of his mouth raised and the edges of his eyes are punctuated by small wrinkles more expressive than all of those which John has already seen in his life.

With his thumbs, Sherlock barely caresses the badly shaved skin, until his right slowly slides up to the doctor's mouth, which he by-passes from the bottom before pressing his chin. It takes a few seconds for John to understand his flatmate did so to make him open his mouth. Sherlock's probably waiting for an answer to this, but it just sends a despicable shiver from his back up along the vertebral column to the jaw which he closes immediately.

Sherlock smiles (but this time, his eyes don't get wrinkled) before slowly releasing the cheeks of his friend.

"I have plenty of time."

With the left hand, he gently taps his friend's shoulder before turning back to his bedroom, of which he left the door open. Hidden under the embrasure, the fingers around the latch, ready to close behind him, he is stopped by John, still standing in the middle of the lounge.

"Wait," growls the ex-soldier with a voice made hoarse by embarrassment, "That's all? We're not going to speak about it?"

"We didn't need words to speak about it. I learnt the main thing."

"Which is?"

"You are not ready but you're thinking about it. And that obsesses you," he looks at his watch and raises his head "It's late, go to sleep. We'll go question the Walsh sisters tomorrow."

John shakes his head, gaze lowered towards the papers he still needs to fill, sort out, and send. They are fine and light but they represent an abyss of everything he has to take care of and face. And even if he hears the door of his flatmate's bedroom closing and even if he knows he's alone, he abandons the medical records and walks up the stairs of Baker Street without a word.

Maybe because he's too tired to face all this.

Or maybe because Sherlock ordered it.

Chapter Text

Note: Hi lovely readers! Once again, thank you so very much for reading this story, for giving me kudos and especially for leaving a comment. Your feedbacks are giving me the force to write more and more. So, if shy readers are reading this introduction, don't hesitate in commenting the stories that make you laugh, cry, shiver, during this lovely holidays season. Your support is really precious to the amazing authors you can find on this website :)
Beta: Wonderful Morwen Maranwe.


 

 

"He had his brain all over the stage, then?"

"Harry," sighs John, pouring the water out of the jug into a small plastic cup which his sister catches, not without a grimace because of the pain.

The doctor sits down and glances at the magazine his sister is folding up on her stomach. If there is an aspect of his detective accomplice's life he hates, it's when newspapers get involved. It's always finishing like that, with a pack of bullshit printed on glazed paper so big that the readers are obliged to believe them, and John is obliged to repeat, indefatigably, 'That's not what actually happened.' Except this time, it's actually what happened.

"You don't want your strawberry compote?"

"After what I've just read? Nope, thank you," laughs the woman. "Would you tell me how it happened, then? It's crazy that this guy was shot during the concert. And even crazier that you were there!"

"What do you want me to say, my life is crazy."

"Coming from you, that's not really surprising..."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I want chocolate, can you go and fetch me a Snickers?" sniffs Harry, interlacing her fingers and smiling at her brother like when she was 16 years old and she needed him to cover her ass when she was going night-clubbing.

"Okay, but when I get back, we stop talking about Sherrer's murder."

The blond gets up after briefly shaking his sister's valid leg to annoy her and disappears in the corridor to follow the usual way up to the distributor, before ordering two Snickers which he puts directly in his pocket. At the end of the fingers, he feels his mobile vibrating.

That shouldn't be so long. SH

John raises his eyebrows and answers while walking towards his sister's chamber.

Lestrade told you the Walsh sisters would be available later that day, thus, we'll see them when they go to Scotland Yard.

I don't have time for that. SH

By "that" you mean, mortal people's schedules?

Do I really have to answer this rhetorical question? SH

You're right, don't say a thing, that'll be a premiere. The girls are traumatised by what they saw the evening of the murder. If Lestrade tells us it's better not to hasten them, that's what we'll do.

And since when are you following what Lestrade says? SH

The doctor turns off his mobile and sighs out loud. The discussion has almost slipped over the subject he's been trying to avoid the last few days - especially since Sherlock had almost kissed him - and John doesn't really feel at ease with the idea of speaking about it. He mentally shakes himself to keep silent the small shiver which browses his muscles and approaches room n°108. Even from where he is he can hear his sister's voice, which means that either someone entered the bedroom or the alcohol has finally broken her mental health. It would be easier if it's the second option. John slowly pushes the poorly closed door open and the person that he sees almost makes him jump with surprise.

"Clara?"

"John," smiles the woman, coming to greet him with a warm kiss.

She still wears her beige coat, with visible sewings which are stuffed with fake fur, and her crazy hair is following the scarf she's taking off, because of the static electricity. It must be two years since they've last seen each other and it pleases the only man in the room so much, he can only wear a stupid smile on his face. He takes advantage when his sister's ex turns around to hang her coat on a hook and gives a look to Harriet, silently sending her the 'You could have warned me' gaze, but it's just a shrug which the oldest Watson answers him with.

"It is great to see you here, I didn't know you two had kept in touch..."

The smile of Clara gets stiff, but Harriet doesn't even sketch one ounce of embarrassed grimace. It looks like she doesn't care.

"Ehm, not really," explains Clara, grabbing a chair next to her ex's bed on which she takes a seat. "But Lawrence told me you had a small accident at home, so I came as soon as possible."

She sends them alternately a sincere smile and in the absurd silence, and it's John who feels obliged to answer:

"Thank you. It is really kind of you."

He ignores the amused, but nevertheless full of reproach, gaze of his sister and returns to his place before bringing out of his pocket both Snickers, which he puts on the bedside table. They look at each other with tangible excitement, obviously happy to see one another again, except Harry who seems miles away from these meanly human considerations. John would like to excuse her free-and-easy attitude by blaming the morphine, but that would be a lie.

"So, John, I read that you are on a big case?"

"It seems like everybody knows."

"It's not a common story. The newspapers say you're going to arrest the murderer soon?"

"We're currently questioning the suspects, but we haven't caught our man yet."

"She could a woman, too," says Harry, mouth full of Snickers.

"I doubt it," laughs John, and faced with the inquiring looks, he gives some explanation. "It's just that... Murderers are mainly men... And in the infrequent case where it's really a woman who pulls the trigger, she rather aims at the stomach than at the head. It's less... visually aggressive."

Clara and Harry raise an eyebrow at the exact same moment, bound by an invisible thread to the right corner of their mouths, which lift up. They seem amused by his words, even if he doesn't know why, but they don't comment and Clara turns her head to her ex to ask her more details about the accident. Of course, Harry doesn't speak about the alcohol, pleads a stupid fall in the staircase in the middle of the night, and Clara really seems to believe her this time. Unless it's a facade. John couldn't say, he's not Sherlock Holmes, bloody hell.

He remains silent, hands mutually massaging, and listening to both women, he has a moved thought for all these years they spent together, drowned in bourbon bottles which Harriet took for allies. He always loved Clara - what's not to like about her? A little older than them, she has always been an example of kindness with a subtle humor which the ex-soldier particularly appreciates. He's a little ashamed, but when he was younger, when his sister had presented her to him, he had a little crush on that woman. Several times, slightly drunk with his war companions, he had dared to wonder what a woman like Clara was doing with someone like his sister. But it's a thought so lame that he doesn't want to think about it anymore, whatever his sister makes or says. And whatever she drinks.

Letting his spirit ramble, he smiles, imagining the meeting between Harriet and Sherlock. Would she wonder, too, what a guy like Sherlock is doing with someone like himself? Not that they're a couple, of course, but the question would be warranted. Maybe his sister would manage to shut the detective's trap. How fun could it be, for once, to shut up...

"Sherlock!" he exclaims, jumping in his chair, his hand already in his pocket to take out his telephone, which he turns back on immediately.

The messages which display one after another on the screen make his teeth grind.

Concerning Lestrade, I didn't want to imply that you could obey him. SH

Can we forget this discussion? SH

If you don't answer because you're pretending like it has never existed, it's very clever. SH

Even if I doubt that you are intelligent enough to have this idea by yourself. SH

You're not answering. Were you kidnapped by Moriarty, again? SH

I'm kidding. SH

John, I've just had a call from Lestrade, the Walsh sisters are at Scotland Yard. Take a taxi and join me immediately. SH

I'm here; where are you? SH

John, I'm waiting for you to question the Walsh sisters. They are already irritating me. SH

JOHN. SH

"I have to go," he sighs, getting up.

"Good luck," smiles the oldest in the room, while Harry makes a vague wave with her hand.

"I'll be back this evening, okay?" he warns, looking his sister straight in the eyes, contorting strangely to put on his jacket.

"Hm, in fact I took the day off so I can stay with her till the end of visiting hours," says Clara, looking at them alternately, but John doesn't even seem to hear her so he adds, opening the door:

"No need, I'll take care of her, okay?"

He's already in the corridor before he can see Clara's pinched pout.


 

There will always be people to criticise the speed at which John scampers in the corridors of Scotland Yard, when he has to join Sherlock for an interrogation, but if we had to turn around every time an idiot dares to open his mouth, we would never move forward. At least that's what John repeats in his head to persuade himself, pretending not to hear the stupid barking of the cops whom like to call him "Holmes' faithful doggie".

He greets Sally by arriving in front of her desk, ignores her pitying smile and asks as calmly as possible, to not show her that he is breathless because he ran like a mad man:

"Have they begun?"

"Yes, about ten minutes ago. Holmes told me to tell you that he's questioning Angie and that you have to take care of Sheri."

"Mh, okay," the doctor answers by shrugging.

The detective sergeant makes a sign to tell him to follow her and guides him to interrogation room number 2. She says Lestrade is behind the two-way mirror before letting him in.

In the center of the room, sitting in a chair behind a small desk, is Sheri Walsh. She's 26 years old, John reads in the file Sally gave him. She seems rather tall and the bun which clears her neck amplifies this impression. She has fair hair, although it's not her natural color, as John can see on her skull where there are darker strands. But what strikes him the most are her big brown eyes, which are incredibly expressive. She has on a blouse so white that it's almost transparent, and the doctor perceives on her fine shoulders the straps of her bra and her slightly reddened skin. He smiles, touched by this subtle demonstration of unease and gets closer to take his place in front of her. He has never questioned a suspect by himself, but if Sherlock trusts him, he must be able to do it.

"Miss Walsh, hi, I'm John Watson."

"Hello," she replies with a paid lip smile.

She bends a little more towards the newcomer and the ceiling light reveals that her skin is covered with freckles. John pinches his lips to hide his smile and puts the file on the desk, looking at it alternately with the suspect.

"Don't worry, I only have a few questions concerning the evening of the concert and then you can go."

She swallows and nods. She has a light in her eyes that makes John shiver. She's thinking about the body spread in his own blood and even the consultant detective's assistant can guess it. It's by reflex that he lowers his voice and slows down his flow of words.

"Inspector Lestrade must have warned you that you were summoned because the ballistics established that the blow which killed Mr. Sherrer had been fired from the back-scene. There are certain precise seats where the shooter could have been sitting and these seats surrounded you. I'd like to know what you saw that evening, even if you have the impression you're repeating yourself."

"Why was my sister taken to another room? She's only 18 years old, she's just a child..."

"Sheri," John calls up as if he is talking to an old friend. "Everything is going to be okay. It's easier for us to question you separately. Are you willing to tell me what happened that evening, please?"

The young woman breathes in, looks at the mirror for a long time (which she knows to be one-way) and eventually looks down before beginning her story:

"I have wanted to invite Angie to a philharmonic concert for a long time, I thought it was a beautiful present... She's very curious, you know. She was completely pressed against the rail all evening long to see the musicians. I was very happy to see her act that way. And when the man got... It was horrible, there was no noise and he just collapsed. I saw the blood exploding out of his skull, you know? I don't... I've never..." she's brought down by a shiver and her face is now so white that John stretches out his hand by reflex to take hers, before holding on at the last moment and closing his fist on the file which he folds just to have something to do.

He can blame Sherlock for being too cold with the suspects but it would be just as correct to blame him for being too thoughtful.

"Don't think about the scene. Think about the people who were surrounding you."

"I was in the front row so I didn't really see anything... I quickly turned around when I heard someone shouting. I saw a man who seemed to wake up. For one second, that reassured me, I thought - it's stupid, I know - that it was a nightmare, that it was proof... But I looked at the scene again and the musician was... He was soaked in his blood and my sister was still looking at him. I took her between my arms and I closed my eyes."

"A witness told us he saw a woman with a man, rather small and quite chubby, who left quickly after the shot."

"I don't remember," deplores the oldest of the Walsh sisters, massaging her face.

John half-opens his lips but his mobile vibrates. He looks at the screen under the desk and discovers Gregory's message.

Witnesses saw her having a nasty slanging match with her sister during the interval, it's strange she doesn't speak about it.

The doctor raises the sleeves of his shirt and crosses his hands, looking at the young woman. He is extremely touched by her weakness and doesn't like at all that all this could be a facade.

"Why did you quarrel with your sister?"

"Quarrel?"

"Sheri, witnesses saw you during the interval," John interrupts with a voice that is drier than usual.

"Oh, no, we didn't quarrel," the young woman laughs, but it seems fake. "We didn't understand each other, that's all. We are very close, you know. We have no reason for quarreling."

The doctor is ready to speak again when the door opens. Sherlock, with his improbable purple shirt and an inexpressive face, and a teenager enter the room. She has the exact same eyes as Sheri, but they're so covered with make-up that it is difficult to see it. She has long, light brown hair which falls on both sides of her face and a very fine plait that is put behind her ear. Her denim dress and compensated sneakers remind John that this fashion is on the way back from the 80s. It's like going back to the future and questioning Harry, but never mind.

Two cops bring each a chair which they put next to the suspect and to the doctor, before the newcomers take their places. Sheri immediately makes a tender movement toward her sister, but Angie avoids her gesture with a sulky appearance. Well, John fell for it hook, line and sinker.

"Who is he?" asks Sherlock, slowly crossing his legs.

The blond man alternately looks at his flatmate and the oldest woman, who sighs before stammering an uncertain:

"Who is who? What are you talking about?"

Angie explodes with false laughter, and in her badly closed mouth John can see chewing gum and her glottis. Charming.

"Who is your boyfriend?" clarifies Sherlock, still pretty calm.

"That has nothing to do with the case, why do we even speak about it?"

"Because Mr. Holmes asked me why we had a row during the interval, so I had to tell him that you were banging an old man."

John opens his eyes wide and moves back unconsciously to get a better look at the absurd Greek tragedy which is taking place in front of him.

"Angie!" seems to bark the older one, turning her head to her sister. "That's my personal life... We'll talk about it at home, OK?"

"Sheri dragged me to this shitty concert, far from dad and mom, to tell me she had a boyfriend. I was very happy of course, until she told me that this pervert is more than 50 years old. He could be our father, it is yucky! What was I supposed to say? Of course we got into a fight, she's making a huge mistake!"

"We already spoke about it, his age has no importance. I love him and he's the man of my life. He's my soul mate."

"So, this is why you quarreled during the break?" demands John, who doesn't know when he and Sherlock had passed from detectives to psychologists.

"Yes this is why I told you, that has nothing to do with all of this murder thing," smiles Sheri awkwardly, obviously trying to calm the ambient tension.

She still has that small, fragile light in her eyes and John can only refrain from smiling. He read it in the file, they're not from a well-to-do family, but she has a fine elegance - much more than Anna Sanchez whose coolness is only an equal to the capital's temperatures. He slowly closes his eyes while looking at her, to reassure her and she seems to breathe a little more serenely.

"Well, fuck me," Angie spits by raising the top of her lip, in a disgusted face. "Do you see the way you're looking at him? You really have a problem. You do like to hit on old men."

"I am not hitting on him!" retorts Sheri, perfectly outraged.

And I am not old, John wants to retort, but Sherlock's fingers have already closed on his thigh under the table, and no more sound can escape out of his mouth. The detective often touched his joint flatmate, to attract him in a corner to prevent him from being shot, to forbid him to drink a cup of tea into which he put bleach for an experiment, or to try to kiss him (must not think of this last point) but it's a new level now and even if it's clear that the brown-haired man acted to prevent John from speaking, the doctor cannot ignore the thumb which caresses his denim for one second.

"John," suddenly calls up Sherlock, getting up, and his friend follows him quite immediately with a tight breast.

He still hears the sisters arguing about what is chatting up or not, which is ironic, considering what just happened under the table between Holmes and him, but the detective doesn't seem to want to speak about it, because he's already in the room behind the two-way mirror, discussing with Lestrade who asks:

"So?"

"Sheri still thinks her sister is a child, Angie thinks her sister is a woman of easy virtue; same old, same old. Do we have the identity of the boyfriend?"

Lestrade shakes his head and all three of the men facing the mirror are looking at the sisters; Sheri tries to approach the youngest, which she refuses constantly.

"By the way, tell Mrs. Hudson I'll be there for Christmas," says the DI all of a sudden.

John raises an eyebrow, dazed by this change of subject, but Sherlock seems perfectly informed.

"Very well."

"You come to spend Christmas at Baker Street?"

"Like, every year," Lestrade and Holmes answer at the same time with such an obvious confidence that it's clear that all of this hides something.

The blond man smiles cheerfully, always amazed by this improbable friendship between the DI and the consulting detective and while both sisters stop speaking to each other, and while Sherlock seems ready to return to the room, John is crossed by a shiver which Gregory doesn't miss.

"It's cold in here."

"Don't you have any jumpers?" the oldest man wonders.

The doctor quickly looks at his flatmate who smiles like a spoiled kid and answers by raising his eyes to heaven.

"I forgot it at home..."

Good, no need to say that Sherlock took them away from him, that would be very strange to insinuate his best friend stole his clothes. Sherlock returns to the room, informs both women that the questioning is over and when they pass in front of John, they quickly shake his hand before disappearing in a mixture of hardly murmured mutual reproaches. The blond crosses his arms against his chest and watches them disappearing in the staircases of Scotland Yard before asking:

"So, what do you think about it?"

"I think that Angie Walsh could make a good detective. Sheri Walsh was looking at you, indeed. Soul mates, yeah, right..."

"Translation?" asks the blond man, slightly lost.

Sherlock takes a step towards his flatmate, taps his shoulder slightly and explains, lips stretched in a radiant smile, as if he's the winner of a game where he's apparently the only one who knows the rules.

"Translation: Sheri Walsh lied to us."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone! Many thanks for the last comments and kudos! You are all so very lovely for supporting me this way :) I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a very happy new year - filled with Johnlock love (and smut!)
I'd like to dedicate this chapter to DaringD, for her incredible support and touching reviews.

Beta: My friend, the unique and delightful Morwen_Maranwe, who is doing an amazing job, fixing all my French mistakes. She's the reason I can publish my stories, so, lots of love and thanks to her!


Sheri Walsh lied. It's what John repeats in his head, his thumb against the plastic tip of his pen which he's constantly pressing on. She had nevertheless something so soft, so fragile, something which had woken the instinct of the ex-soldier, like a need to protect her.

Click.

She had looked at him, her chin lowered, with a timid smile. Wrongly. A facade to hide a wound.

Click.

Or a lie.

Click.

But John hadn't even understood that. He had only seen the milky skin, the freckles, the bra strap that was too big, falling on her shoulder. He hadn't understood what all of this really hid. He understood nothing. And he blames himself for it.

With an annoyed gesture, he pushes away the papers to make space on the coffee table of the small waiting room of the hospital's 7th floor and sighs heavily. There are C-08 forms everywhere, enough Application for admission in detoxification center to make him sick. It's an administrative mess into which he sinks by mumbling insults he doesn't even try to contain.

"Charming."

John raises his head and sees Clara, hands in the pockets of her immense coat and with a bit of wet hair. He hasn't even noticed the drizzle which has been beating down on the capital for the last hour.

"The administration," he says as an excuse by pointing at the papers in front of him.

Clara smiles, unbuttons her coat, and bends to kiss him on the cheek before taking a seat. It's early on this December 24th, the families of the patients are certainly making the last purchases for Christmas Eve. In the meantime, there are just the nurses with sprites' hats who are humming in the corridors, led by Christmas carols broadcasted by the surrounding speakers.

"You spoke to her about the cure, then?"

"Of course, this is why she told me to get out of her bedroom," John answers with an assumed laugh.

"Where do you want to register her?"

"In a private hospital on Clerkenwell Road."

"A private hospital?" Clara wonders, pinching her lips. "You know, there's a center in Southall, a few miles away from my home. It's Todd Benter who opened it a few years ago. "

"Ah yes, he told to me about it," John answers without raising his eyes from the A-19-07B form, of which he doesn't understand a thing.

"It is a big house in fact, with about ten rooms. They only take a few patients to be able to help them personally. I spoke to him and he has a bedroom for her. "

"Great," he smiles and it's clear with this false grin that he didn't listen to a thing that his friend said.

"John," Clara calls up with a firm voice. "I think Harry will be better in Southall. I just have to call Todd and she'll be able to go there."

"It's sweet, but not necessary," he answers, his jaw a bit tight.

"Why?"

" Because I... "

"Because you can handle it?" she asks with a laugh so noisy that John moves back by reflex.

It's exactly what he was going to say, so why did she pronounce it with so much disdain? Her eyelids are quickly closing, her lips are half-opened to breathe better, and it seems like she's slightly trembling under the anger.

"Harry would never bear being in a private hospital. You know her, if there are too many people, she becomes aggressive. And I could go to see her more easily in Southall."

"And I can go to see her more easily on Clenkerwell Road."

"But do you want to?" Clara nearly shouts, obviously losing her temper.

She is tilted toward John and he is just the same, because they might be in a hospital but they both know that the screams are bubbling out of them and they are coming so deep from their guts that they'll have difficulty containing them.

"This has nothing to do with what I want, it's something that I have to do, that's all."

"And why don't you let me help you? Your sister is sick, she almost killed herself by falling dead drunk down her staircase. And you are the one who's been taking care of her for so many years. You always take care of others. For God's sake, you even enlisted of your own free will for Afghanistan! John, I adore you, but I don't understand you: why are you acting like this? Why do you make it a rule to always manage everything? Give me only one reason why you refuse to let people help you out."

"I don't want any help!" he roars and that has the effect of a slap from Clara, who moves back instinctively.

He hardly looks at her and gets up, puts his hands on his face, exhales noisily to contain the underlying explosion, but Clara has nothing soft, nothing fragile. She gets up to be face to face with this man whose certainties she destroys before he starts again. The fury to be obliged to explain himself over something so obvious is held with difficulty behind his gritted teeth:

"You can't understand..."

"I can understand, but I can't accept it. You're a good man, John, but look at you: you take care of your patients, your sister, your friends, your homeland. It's great, really, but hear me carefully: you are so terrorised by the idea of showing that you can be vulnerable that it's becoming unhealthy. You think that it's shameful to have moments of weakness. But let me tell you something: all this, it's bullshit. So, I'm going to register Harry in Todd's centre because it's more practical for her, for you, and for me. I am going to take her to celebrate Christmas at my home, because I want it and she wants it, too. And especially, especially John, you are going to open your eyes and finally realise that by trying to control everything, you are going to end up killing yourself."

Clara suddenly closes her lips and breathes for a long time. John swallows, reveals the muscles of his jaw which are contracting under the shaved skin and doesn't shake his head. Not this time. He's in front of his sister's ex, they're the same size, have the same gaze, and they tighten both their fists. But John doesn't want to think of their resemblances. He grabs his jacket, which he puts on, and leaves the waiting room without a backwards glance. Almost running, he feels the pen that he forgot to leave in the back pocket of his pants. He grabs it by reflex and quickly presses the hood.

Click.

Unhealthy.

Click.

So terrorised by the idea of showing that you can be vulnerable.

Click.

Something's not right.


It shines and sparkles, it's invading the lounge of the ground floor with red, green, and gold, and it makes Mrs. Hudson smile like the child she was a long time ago. Baker Street is dressed for Christmas with the garlands which smell stuffy because they haven't brought them out for a year, and with the balls they put on the small Christmas tree near the fireplace. It smells like curry, even if it's not very traditional, because in a magazine for mature women there was a new turkey recipe which intrigued Mrs. Hudson. Sherlock and Lestrade are fed up with her chestnut turkey, though they have never told her, but she sees how the oldest one forces himself to eat it and how the youngest hides his leftovers in his pockets before throwing them in the neighbor's trash can so she can't see it.

But it's Christmas, so everybody is making an effort. This time, it's the dean who makes the ultimate sacrifice by not respecting the traditions. That will please Sherlock, who hates what is classic, and Mrs. Hudson adores to please Sherlock. She slowly stirs her immense wooden spoon in the sauce, which she's been simmering since the beginning of the afternoon, when the DI arrives in the kitchen.

"Merry Christmas Mrs. Hudson."

"Gregory!" she smiles, turning her head to ask silently for a kiss which he gives her without waiting.

"It smells like... curry?" he tries with a shrug of eyebrow.

"Surprise, surprise... You arrived exactly on time. I need help to lay the table."

"Where are Sherlock and John?"

"Sherlock is upstairs and John didn't return from the hospital yet. I'm a bit worried, he left quite early this morning..."

"He might be trying to convince Harry to come eat with us."

"I don't know if it's a good idea, he told me that she didn't like the family meals too much."

Lestrade raises a shoulder and nicks a hot cinnamon cookie before Mrs. Hudson taps his hand in a maternal gesture which makes both of them smile. He returns to the lounge and opens the buffet to bring out the porcelain tableware that Mrs. Hudson particularly likes. In the bric-a-brac he looks for the least cracked plates when the front door slams. He takes a look over his shoulder and discovers John, hair covered by a light snow which melts almost immediately under the ambient heat.

"Hello, John!"

The doctor just raises a hand to answer him. He has red cheeks from the sudden change of temperature, his eyes maybe a little inflated, also, and his breath is jerky.

"John!" exclaims Mrs. Hudson, coming out of her kitchen, drying her hands with a green rag. "I thought that you would come back earlier," she blames him, turning her watch on her fine wrist, on which is displayed 7:12 pm.

"I was held up."

"Harry isn't with you?"

"She won't come. She... she's spending the evening with Clara."

"Her ex?" asks Lestrade, carrying the plates which he puts on the still bare table. "They are getting back together?"

John just shrugs by lowering the corners of his lips, a grimace which means more 'Why the fuck would I care?', than 'I don't know'. He does nothing to hide the contortion of his face, but Mrs. Hudson doesn't see it and Lestrade doesn't understand it as he tries to remember if, in good English families, we put the knife to the left or to the right of the plate.

"You help me out to lay the table?" he asks without even looking at John.

"No."

The oldest raises his head but that doesn't change the doctor's mind.

"I'm going to take a shower and change my clothes. When I'm ready, I'll come to help you out."

There's something so cold in his voice that an offensive silence invades the ground floor. John shakes his head once and turns back before Lestrade manages to read the embarrassment on his serious face. He begins to walk up the stairs when the voice of his landlady calls out:

"Is everything all right, John?"

"Yes, of course," he lies through gritted teeth and he barely hits the middle-floor when he stops.

In front of him, there's Sherlock. He is already dressed for Christmas Eve with his black waisted suit and a shirt so dark it contrasts with his crystalline skin, poorly lit in this corridor where the lights are switched off. That doesn't prevent them from seeing each other's eyes. And that especially doesn't prevent the youngest one from figuring out that something is not right. That reassures John, who doesn't want to speak, who just wants to shamelessly take advantage of the outstanding analysis of his flatmate to understand that it has been hours that he's spent walking in the snowy capital, facing those fucking questions which have come to shake everything he thought he was so sure of. He wants a shower, warmth, dinner, and the laughter of Mrs. Hudson. He just wants to feel good. So he stays there, two steps below Holmes, and doesn't even shudder when he deduces with his warm voice:

"Something happened."

John retorts, without any subtlety.

"Yes."

The detective hardly wrinkles his eyes, glances entirely at John before informing him with a quiet voice:

"Your jumpers are in my bedroom's cupboard."

The blond man gets ready to thank him but the smile of his flatmate immediately stops him. It's soft and confident, as if they're having one of those brilliant moments when they understand each other without needing words, but John doesn't understand. He's much too tired anyway, so he says nothing and continues his way up to the bathroom where he locks himself up.


"Mrs. Hudson, on our behalf, I have to tell you that your curry turkey recipe is a pure marvel."

Lestrade gets up, his glass of champagne in his hand. Sherlock and John, seated one facing the other, follow his example. All three are looking at the dean, who hides her mouth behind a frail hand, but her shining eyes are the only proof they need to discern how happy she is.

"There's not too much hot pepper?" she wonders, slightly worried.

"Not at all," lies the policeman, who has red cheeks.

They raise their glasses a bit higher, singing with the same cheerful voice 'To Mrs. Hudson', before sitting down again. On the record player, the Christmas carols of Sinatra and Nat King Cole are playing. It's the first year that John has spent Christmas Eve at Baker Street and he discovers, with a lot of surprise, a family atmosphere that he would never have imagined between the woman who put her husband in prison, the sociopath, and the policeman whose honor was sullied by a bloody divorce. He should stop jumping to hasty conclusions.

"Boys, can someone go fetch another champagne bottle in the cellar please?" asks Mrs. Hudson, finishing the second bottle of the evening.

"I'll do it."

Lestrade raises an eyebrow but the detective has already disappeared into the kitchen before he can make a comment.

"In seven Christmases, that's the first time he has helped, right?"

"Gregory," scolds the owner in a friendly manner, shaking her head.

"Wait, it has been seven years since you've been spending Christmas together?" demands John, who jumps on the opportunity to finally know more about this curious subject. "But Sherlock moved here a few weeks before me, right?"

"We've known Mrs. Hudson for seven years, yes," the oldest one confides, smiling, and something in his eyes shows the doctor that he's particularly proud to be able to tell this anecdote. "Sherlock met her during his first case, he presented me to her and she immediately adopted us."

"Well, of course I've adopted you, two kids like you without any family to spend Christmas with, I wasn't going to allow that!" Mrs. Hudson is deceitfully outraged before winking at John, who asks quite immediately:

"Weren't you married, Greg?"

"It was the time when my wife and I began to have... difficulties, let's say. She was spending the holidays with her family in Salisbury and I was staying in London with Sherlock, it was perfectly fine with me. "

"But where was Sherlock living, if he wasn't in Baker Street?"

"With me," Lestrade answers before catching his glass of champagne and emptying it slowly, mouthful after mouthful.

It may be in John's head, but it looks like a way to stop the conversation. Mrs. Hudson collects the empty plates and gets up to move to the kitchen, where she prepares the Christmas pudding (in which she added marshmallows this time) and adds:

"Back then, there was a couple, like you, who lived on the second floor. A heterosexual couple, however. Charming people. They left when she got pregnant and when they wanted to buy. They always send me a card for my birthday."

John smiles even if his landlady can't see him and plays with some crumbs on the table. The small laughter of his friend makes him raise his head.

"What?"

"'A heterosexual couple, however', and you don't say a thing? You're progressing, John."

"Mrs. Hudson is just teasing me. Well, Sherlock and I can't be a couple. You know me."

"Oh, I especially know Sherlock," answers the DI, very serious.

"Well, I hope the marshmallows weren't a bad idea... Who wants some?" announces Mrs. Hudson, returning with the pudding which she puts on the table.

"Let's wait for Sherlock, otherwise he'll sulk," answers Lestrade, smiling.

John contorts a little bit in his chair to try to perceive the door of the cellar, but he just feels the small trickle of fresh air which escapes from it. He gets up almost immediately and apologises to his host and to his friend by explaining to them he's going to get a jumper. Now that he knows the hiding place, he is not going to freeze anymore. He climbs the steps, humming on the air "Jingle Bells" by Bobby Helms. But once he arrives on the first floor, the music goes out little by little until he pushes the door of his flatmate's bedroom and no more sound reaches him. He switches on the ceiling light, approaches the cupboard and he has to open the double door before realizing how strange all of this is.

It's the smell of the clothes, which reminds him that he entered an intimate room. They use the same washing powder because they mix their clothes when they do the laundry but nothing can be done, it still smells like Sherlock. What is entirely normal. What doesn't deserve to be deeply breathed, as John is doing now.

He kneels down automatically, spreads the hanging suits and discovers perfectly aligned shoes (which is rather ironic in comparison to the state of the flat), and a multitude of cardboard boxes. John opens one, finds a set of shoe polish that he'll take from time to time from now on, a collection of forsaken socks (the ultimate proof that Sherlock Holmes is human) and other trinkets which don't concern him. He bends a little more towards the bottom of the poorly lit cupboard and curses out loud. On all fours, he stretches his arm a bit more, blindly touches what seem to be bath towels given the rough texture, until he finally feels a new box, bigger, which he slides a hand under the lid of.

"The top shelf."

John jumps with surprise, moves back awkwardly and stands up quickly on his feet. With his shoulder resting against the open doorway is Sherlock, arms crossed against his torso. He has found his bottle of champagne, after all.

"Your jumpers are on the top shelf," he clarifies, raising his chin to indicate to the blond to do the same.

"Ah... Okay," answers John feeling silly, turning around again.

He raises his head, discovers a long shelf, and sighs mentally, realizing that it's ridiculously high. With his right hand, he grabs the cupboard door while he stretches his left to try to catch at least one jumper. Too high. Of course. He pushes a bit more on his legs, feels his heels coming loose of the ground and doesn't really hope to keep one ounce of dignity because Sherlock saw him on all fours and now on his tiptoes anyway.

He's ready to give up, persuaded his flatmate is kidding just to make a fool of him, when Sherlock's body heat is pressing against him. He feels his back wrapped by the brown-haired man's chest, his hips against his and the back of his own thighs pressed by knees with striking bones. It's physically impossible, John knows it, he's a doctor for God's sake, but it seems that every tiny plot of land of the detective's body found a place against his. Sherlock's right hand settles slowly on his pelvis and lays his palm down, all of his fingers.

"Higher," a lascivious voice murmurs extremely low, because Sherlock put his lips on John's ear, then leans a little more on tiptoe without waiting.

The hand of the youngest tightens, he holds him, prevents him from falling and assists him to stand up a little more. But John doesn't imagine himself refusing his help, because he knows that he couldn't make it without Sherlock.

"It is not Harry who put you in this state... She is incapable of understanding you," Sherlock deduces, his nose lost in the fair hair behind the ear of his flatmate, which he inhales (John knows it, because he feels the rib cage swelling against his back). "What happened at the hospital that made you..."

"Clara," interrupts John with a disarmed voice.

"Of course, Clara," he sighs, slightly disappointed he didn't understand it earlier. "But what did she say to you, that made you accept it?"

John wants to ask what he is supposed to have accepted, but, like a snake, the left hand of the detective is now following his shoulder, the arm of which he's drawing the outline of the tense muscle, up to the wrist which he's surrounding with his thin fingers. John just has time to understand that Sherlock is taking his pulse, before the youngest murmurs:

"Oh. It's not what she said. It's what she understood."

He interlaces their fingers in a possessive gesture and the smell which surrounds them is a confusion of washing powder, cologne, and male skin, as if Sherlock's movements are themselves transformed into a fragrance meant to intoxicate the doctor a bit more.

"Tell me a word," murmurs the same voice again, stuck on his ear, so low, so low that they are the only ones on all this damned Earth who can hear it.

"A word?"

"Yes, a word, anything, a word which will make me stop everything you won't accept."

John has already heard about this kind of code, a safeword, but he doesn't know all the mechanisms very well. He doesn't really think, because it's not possible, and answers hastily when he feels Sherlock's left hand closing around his fingers.

"Champagne."

The detective has a smile and it's only because his mouth is stuck on his skin that John can feel it, and answers tenderly:

"All right, your safeword will be Champagne."

With an abrupt movement, the brown-haired man pulls on the hand he's surrounding and pushes John, obliging him to stay on his toes. The doctor wants to say something, but at the end of the fingers he finally feels the familiar sweetness he has been seeking for so long, and without further delay he catches the base of the pile of jumpers and begins to attract it.

"I'll never make you do something you won't accept. But I'll make you discover everything. Everything. And we'll take our time, together, until you let go, John."

The blond man breathes in noisily, feels the body which was holding him begin to move back, and he raises his right hand to catch the jumpers before they fall. He turns around just in time to see Sherlock waiting for him in the doorway.

"Put on the white one, you look great in it."


"I ate too much," Lestrade sighs, squatted near the fireplace which he looks at, bewitched.

"We can't complain about eating too much," mutters Mrs. Hudson, smiling, seated on her rocking chair next to the DI.

Sherlock enters the debate and his host begins to laugh at the youngest's eating habits - which seems perfectly fine with him going by his amused smile. He is seated at the end of the table, legs crossed in a sophisticated gesture, fingers banging a soft rhythm on the sewn tablecloth.

There's only John who doesn't say a thing, still not totally comfortable with his voice to dare to only half-open his lips. It seems that the smell of Sherlock's cupboards is still there, surrounding him, but of course it's the smell of the jumper he's wearing at the moment. John wonders if all his jumpers will have this smell from now on. And John wonders if he will always get this heavy weight in his stomach every times he smells it.

"So, John, what do you think of the champagne?"

The ex-soldier goes immediately out of his thoughts and jumps at the sound of the word. He first looks at Sherlock, who smiles, though it's not him who asked the question but Mrs. Hudson, on the other side of the room.

"The..." he doesn't finish his sentence. He will not say the word that will stop everything. Not already. "Surprising," he finally confides.

Sherlock is still smiling at him, with a kind of pride the blond doesn't miss. It's quite mutual.

"Mh, I am not very convinced," replies Mrs. Hudson gloomily, looking at the cup she barely touched.

"Me neither. I leave it to both of you," says Lestrade without looking at them, much too occupied by the log which he tries to make catch fire.

"Should the two of us finish the bottle?" Sherlock offers, bending towards John who automatically stretches out his glass to him, thanking him with a smile.

He takes advantage of Sinatra singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" more cheerfully than ever, and that Mrs. Hudson is tilted towards her fireplace to give advice to Lestrade, before murmuring:

"Why now?"

"Because you are ready."

"Ready for what?"

The last drop of the liquid with thousands of small bubbles slides into his glass before Sherlock smiles, more beautiful than ever:

"Consider that your learning begins today. Merry Christmas, John Watson."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi! First let me thank you all for your terrific and so sweet comments. The way you're supporting me is beyond precious, I truly have no words. Just, thank you. Also, I'm sorry for the late update. As you may have heard, things have been quite difficult in France those past weeks, so I didn't have time to translate much. Now that it's done, I hope you'll enjoy chapter 10 :)

Note bis: I'm currently searching for a translator, capable to translate from French to English (for another project). If anyone is interested, please send me a note on my Tumblr or on FanFiction (which you can find on my profile!)

Beta: The amazing and truly unique Morwen Maranwe, whom I have the honour to work with.


Against all odds, no day following Christmas had ever been so warm. There's always a certain immediate melancholy after opening our presents, emptying wine bottles and embracing the family which we'll not see again for a while. A small thought of spoiled children, enlightened by the flame of a despondent candle, which makes us think "one more year before next Christmas". But no, not this time. Sitting at the kitchen table where slices of buttered toast are quietly waiting on a plate, John mindlessly smiles while slowly swirling his cup of tea, perfumed with cinnamon and ginger. In front of him there's the very approximate origami which Greg created with his paper towel, where glitter which Mrs. Hudson has sprinkled on is sparkling brightly . Baker Street isn't totally out of this festive spirit and this sort of cocoon which still smells like cookies and slowly dying chimney fire makes John drunk from a crazy need to enjoy every moment.

He's now wearing a mustard jumper with big stitches, in which he wrapped himself up as soon as he left the bed. He usually prefers to get dressed before coming down to the first floor (a stupid story of mutual respect between flatmates, which one of them has never respected), but today, the idea of leaving his pajamas is not more attractive than vacuuming. It's necessary to say that with Sherlock, boundaries were a bit questioned since John saw his cupboard so very, very near. To be confined in a corner, embraced by a man, it's not really something of which the ex-soldier is used to. But neither is it something which he particularly loathed. To tell the truth, it would even be the opposite.

He slowly stirs the spoon in his cup when he thinks of the smell of the cupboard mixed with Sherlock's cologne that he always knew but had never smelt so close. But of all his senses which were on the alert that evening, Sherlock's touch remains the one which still gives him this sort of ball in his stomach every time he thinks about it. The heat of Sherlock against him, on his back, on his stomach, along his left hand. The underlying warmth of a too big, too white body against his, too small, much too submitted. Because how passive John was—it's not something which he thought about, it's rather something that he let happen, guided by an instinct which already brought him back alive from more dangerous situations. And maybe that is the reason for his acceptance.

John Watson is not gay (it's enough to look at the majority of his career spent1 horizontally and nude to know that) but, because the subject comes up for discussion, he well has to admit that he has already tasted carnal pleasures with another guy. He was young, also a bit drunk, and they had only used their hands. Even if that hadn't been the most orgasmic experience of his life, it's true that it hadn't been unpleasant. By counting this experiment, renewed twice, sober, with the same student at the school of medicine, and the time he almost followed a soldier under his tent at Bastion camp (before being stopped by a group of friends who were going to play poker), four times John Watson was not heterosexual. Add to that some rare times when, more out of curiosity than by real desire, he succumbed to the temptation of watching porn movies only 'played' by men; today, in front of his sandwich of whole bread he wonders if all of this obsession to label everything is not a bit thick, after all.

"Good morning."

He turns around and smiles automatically at his flatmate, in pajamas, too. Sherlock has put on his long blue dressing gown, which he tries to close with sleepy gestures, before sitting down in front of the blond haired man who serves him automatically.

"Slept well?"

"Did Mrs. Hudson put some sleeping drug in the herbal tea, yesterday?"

"She swore last May that she wouldn't do it again, in any case."

"That's odd... Well, yes, I slept well, even if I do not know the reason."

"Maybe you were tired?" proposes John, smiling, before pushing a plate full of toast towards his flatmate.

"Maybe," echoes the youngest, jumping on the most grilled one that he savors without waiting.

Both men stay silent in front of their breakfast, giving each other the butter when one of them silently stretches out his fingers, until they finish and the blond haired man hints at the idea of having to go shopping, which Sherlock seems to ignore because he says, in a voice still a little bit hoarse from too much sleep:

"I was rather amazed that you chose 'Champagne' as a safeword. It is very... sophisticated."

The thick and heavy ball which sinks into John's stomach makes him swallow more noisily than ever.

"I didn't really... think," he answers, turning around to catch an old newspaper in which he hides his small snub-nose.

"That's the most important thing. I gave you an order to which you answered without waiting. Of course, I doubt that everything will be as easy but it's a good beginning."

"Sherlock..." starts John, flattening the newspaper on the kitchen table for a long time just to have something to do with his hands.

"You want to speak about what happened between us, but you don't dare to bring up the subject."

The doctor half-opens his lips but he only has to nod his head to answer yes, and he's easily seduced by this easy way out.

"Look at me, John."

It's immediate, as when the detective shouts to join him when they dash in pursuit of a criminal. John automatically raises his head from the newspaper, where he has been reading the same sentence since the beginning.

"We started with the main thing. This word, you should use it as soon as I cross one of your limits, when something displeases you or worries you."

"Wait a minute... It's been months that I ask you, for example, to stop touching my computer and you're not listening to a single word. Now, I just have to say 'Champagne' when you're approaching it and that's it, you stop everything?"

Sherlock lets out a hot burst of laughter which John dreads to understand, but that doesn't stop him from looking at the white revealed throat.

"No, what I propose to you has nothing to do with what happened between us those last few months."

"What will be different, then?" John worries slightly, moving back by reflex on his formica chair.

"The sex. Well, sex will be a plus, as it is not something that we used to do before."

The silence which invades the kitchen of the first floor of 221B Baker Street is even thicker than the layer of formalin in which soaks the duchess of Montgormery's tongue, from the stolen diamonds case. John's eyebrows rise slowly, his mouth opens at the same rhythm, before he explodes with resounding laughter:

"Yep, there was definitely something weird in your herbal tea... "

"I am quite serious," answers the youngest one without breaking eye contact with his friend, cheeks pink from having laughed too much.

"Listen, Sherlock, the other night it was... I was a bit drunk, okay? It was Christmas..." John adds, as if it could possibly explain his actions. "I don't want... I don't want you to touch me. We are flatmates -friends, maybe- but in any case, I don't want... "

"For me to touch you. I understand."

Sherlock uncrosses his long fingers before getting up and disappearing into the living room. He doesn't bring his empty plate to the sink and the doctor is persuaded that he acted so as a punishment. It's childish but, of course, it works. John finishes his tea and gets up in his turn to briefly tidy up the kitchen.


Between the Tesco's shelves, John thinks (for the sixteenth consecutive time) that it would be so much simpler to make a list before coming here. He thinks about it because the mother with her girl seated in the shopping cart has in her hand a post-it on which she's crossing off every product she catches and God how smart that is. He lets her pass between the green peas and him with a smile and raises the handle of the plastic basket on his forearm before going to the end of the store.

There are some people who are coming to do their grocery shopping with their pets, which they leave tied in the entry, and John thinks that it's something he could have done with Sherlock. There was something really, really weird in the herbal tea, indeed, because for the first time, the detective has followed him here. It's not that John doesn't like being seen in public with Holmes, but he actually knows people here, people who saw the contents always globally identical of his baskets: some ham for two people, yoghurts for two people, ready-prepared meals for two people. Not good to show to the world (well, Tesco) the gender of the person he's living with. He enters the confectionery department and smiles when he recognizes Jessica, the student who has worked here half-time since September.

"Hello, Jessica."

"Hi, John," she smiles, passing the back of her hand on her forehead, to remove a curly lock. "What can't you find today?"

"The almond paste..."

"Ah, follow me," she winks, which moves the piercing on the arch of her eyebrow. "You're really going to cook this time? That changes from the other times when you were looking for White spirit, sterilized gloves and shovels. I was starting to believe you were a serial killer who buries the bodies of his victims, you know."

"I don't do that anymore, too many back problems."

She smiles at him over her shoulder and they finally arrive at the end of the wished shelf where she recommends an almond paste not too expensive and sweeter than the others, according to her statements. John thanks her and asks her how her exams went, when someone arrives next to them, someone that the doctor wasn't really waiting for. Sherlock has his hands in his pockets and he's looking at them alternately with an unpleasant insistence. Jessica raises an eyebrow (the one where the blue ring bounces ceaselessly) and asks politely:

"Can I help you?"

"John?" asks the detective, turning toward his friend as if to say 'Why does this short human being is talking to me?'

"He's with me," reassures the blond with a shake of the head to Jessica.

"I'm his flatmate. The almond paste is for the cake for my surprise birthday," Sherlock smiles, seeming to be particularly proud to be able to surprise the young woman who raises her second eyebrow, without a piercing this time.

"Erh, okay..."

"Sherlock," scolds John with a grin full of reproaches.

"What? She doesn't care about the surprise, she isn't invited, right? But don't worry, I'll mime a completely amazed face when you, Mrs. Hudson, Molly, and Lestrade shout Surprise! next week. Can we go now? I'm bored." But the tallest one doesn't really expect an answer to this rhetorical question, because he has already disappeared into the Hygiene and Beauty department.

"Yeah, let's do this. Bye, Jessica, and let me know your grades when you'll have them."

"No problem. And John, if it's the body of your flatmate you want to bury, your secret will be safe with me."

They smile at each other one last time before he accelerates his pace up to the aisle where Sherlock disappeared, but he doesn't see him. Toothpaste, he sees that, on the other hand. He gets closer, takes the cheaper one which doesn't taste like shoe polish and roams, eyes lost on hundreds of more or less unrefined packages, before slowing down in front of smaller, more colored boxes, too rarely bought. He threw out his last condoms last August, during the big housework, when Mrs. Hudson specifically asked that whatever wasn't used should be put in a trash can, and faster than that. It was out-of-date, anyway. John didn't even regret it.

He remembers that one evening when he had returned with Sarah to Baker Street, when his hands started to venture for the first time under her blouse. He hadn't bought new condoms yet and, while the idea that his date could stay overnight was getting more and more tangible, he had imagined himself going to tap at his flatmate's door to ask him to give him one. But the evening had finished earlier than expected because Sarah was working early the next morning and John was finally not more in the mood than that. Maybe she would have stayed if he had at least tried to hold her.

With his free hand, he catches a box (a blue, simple one) but his look is already on the one to the right, orange and pink. Ribbed & Dotted condoms is written with a white and plain font. When he was younger, he remembers walking with his chin low in pharmacies, to catch any condom box (always the most discreet) before going reluctantly to the cash register. Today, young people buy those things like they are chewing gum. Although the doctor in him finds this human advance simply brilliant, the boy from the North of London educated in the strength of the Anglican tradition which slumbers in him always feels uncomfortable to reveal in broad daylight what is supposed to take place in full darkness.

"Not the Ribbed & Dotted one, please."

John jumps with surprise and tries to put back the blue box, but in his haste, he gives a blow to the small metallic stalk which held the set, which collapses in a light cardboard noise - but it's already far too much for the doctor.

"Holy shit, Sherlock..."

He bends down on his knees on the dirty lino and begins to collect the packages, helped by Sherlock who adds:

"Plus, we don't really need those things."

"Of course we don't..." the soldier mutters as he raises his eyebrows, as if stating an obvious fact, before suddenly realising: "Wait, what does that mean? You're not using them?"

"I used to, yes, but not anymore."

"For Christ's sake, Sherlock, don't mess around with that, just wear a condom every time you... you know. Especially because you..."

"Especially because I what?" wonders the brown-haired man, kneeling right beside John, without worrying that some dust might tarnish his pants.

"Especially because you..." John begins again before verifying around them that they're still alone and murmuring in a little, pinched voice: "especially because you're hanging out with people who have a lifestyle like Elisa's..."

"I don't really see what their lifestyle, as you say, has to do with..."

"And especially because you were a junkie," John eventually admits, his jaw tight, because they never speak about that, never.

The brown-haired man slowly crosses his arms against his torso, before raising his chin obstinately. He leaves the boxes of condoms on the floor and seals his lips with a cold attitude which automatically makes the oldest one open his:

"Sorry, I didn't want to..."

"I haven't used condoms for some time because there was no opportunity for me to do so. So, of course you're going to buy a box - or two, why not - but not the Ribbed & Dotted ones, because I don't want to use those kind of commercial artifices. And when I will finally touch you, John, you will put the condom on me. That would please you, right? Sweet, perfect doctor that you are. If that can still give you the illusion that you're the one in charge... Maybe you hope that you'll be able to take advantage of the darkness, to tell me that you can't put it on me, but don't you worry about that. When I'll touch you, I'll leave the lights on. Every. Single. One. It is cute, the way you switch off the lamps of your bedroom when you're bringing... dates back home. Even when you're masturbating, moreover, as if sex was something shameful that you should hide even from yourself. I still don't know if I shall let you undress yourself alone, or if I shall participate actively in your striptease - oh, in heaven's name, no need to make a decision now, the unexpected can sometimes be a good thing. And I shall take my time, to look at you, to meet you, finally. Because you are clever, terribly clever. You hide yourself behind shapeless, really squalid jumpers; you're lowering yourself, constantly. You fade, you shy away behind your big acts of bravery or your more discreet altruistic attentions... But you cannot run away or lie any more. I will see what you hide, at last. Your scars. You certainly have a few, given the fact you're coming back from Afghanistan. And I will see what brought you back to London."

With a slow gesture, because time doesn't really exist anymore, Sherlock raises a hand, stretches out his index finger. He slowly approaches the foreign body which forms under a jumper with big stitches as if attracted to it by gravity. Finally his hand touches its purpose, its ultimate target: the right collarbone of the soldier, where the skin is still marked by the bullet which tore him apart.

"What brought you to me."

The finger's pressing again and again, it seems to pierce him, to open him in two and to reveal him to the world. It doesn't ache when someone touches his shoulder, it hasn't for a long time now. Everything is in his head, because the medicine made enormous progress but humans are still so weak mentally. Sherlock finally blinks and John realises that his eyes are dry, bulging, almost. So he quickly closes his eyelids and lowers his chin, to follow the right hand of his flatmate, his fine wrist, the inquisitive hand and finally the index finger only an inch away from his body. And Sherlock is not touching him. Everything is in his head. He raises his head, confused, but Sherlock is smiling at him. And strangely, this simple movement of lips seems to exist on this damned Earth only to reassure him.

"You asked me to not touch you," he explains by raising a shoulder, before getting up slowly.

He stretches out his long legs, dusts his knees off with grace, and puts the condoms boxes back on their shelf before hiding his hands in his pockets again and leaving the department in a rustle of fabric noise. John gets up, too, alone; it's a bit stupid to remain seated on the floor. He tidies up the boxes that he gathered in his turn and doesn't really hesitate before putting one (simple and blue) in his basket. With his free hand, he hides his mouth while coughing soberly and accelerates his steps up to the cash register where Sherlock is waiting for him. He just has time to take out his second jar of cream from his basket when his mobile vibrates.

Hello John, would you be available in the afternoon? -Greg

"I've just received a text from Lestrade," he informs his flatmate.

"What does he want?"

I need to see you. Without Sherlock. -Greg

Shit, how to hide something from Holmes? John takes advantage that his flatmate is coldly analysing the cashier who has obviously no problem revealing her glottis at the same time as her chewing gum, but the DI immediately sends him an excuse:

Say that I need you to bring my sofa to the dump. -Greg

"He needs help to throw his sofa away."

"Ah, it's about time. Tell him that I've been kidnapped. No, he would be capable to think himself a real detective and to try to find me. Tell him that I died, we will save time. "

He says he's dead. I'm coming then.

I'm waiting for you at Scotland Yard. -Greg

Chapter Text

Note: Hello everyone! Just a quick note to once again thank the wonderful readers who are leaving kudos and of course comments (and that could be YOU, yes, you who are reading this introduction. It's easy and it's the greatest reward for an author. So, if you like this story, don't hesitate in leaving a review :D).
Beta: The magnificent Morwen Maranwe who is doing an amazing job. She's one of the most precious person I met on the world wide web.


The London police officer's desks are emptier during this festive period. It's simple to understand; the most high-ranking and the parents of large families have their holidays, which makes the bachelors and newest ones jealous, and they hide behind the wretched paperwork they have to take care of during this time, the beginning of the new year. John is already knocking at Gregory Lestrade's door when he distinguishes through badly closed blinds two seated silhouettes.

Lestrade opens but immediately goes out of his office to greet the newcomer. He explains, lowering his voice:

"Were you able to come without Sherlock?"

"Yes, he didn't like the sofa thing at all."

"He's hated it for so long... Anyway, I need you to question Doris and Benjamin Cox."

"Wait, Greg, I questioned Sheri Walsh the last time but Sherlock was close by..."

"No, no, it's you I need this time. I don't trust Sherlock on this one. Benjamin has Down syndrome, I don't want Sherlock to... Well I know that you are irreproachable."

John has a half-smile. He unconsciously moves his ankles closer, tightens his fists and lowers his chin before going in the office as if he's entering the battlefield. Doris has already turned her head, without even moving one blond hair of her impeccable blow-dry. Her eyebrows are so well depilated that they seem to be drawn on her skin and her plump cheeks are enlightened by small touches of make-up. She has two thick golden earrings and a sea-green jumper in answer to the color of her eyes. On her right is her son, Benjamin, 19 years old. Wrapped in a red jumper, he's looking at John with his small almond eyes, a polite smile on his lips. He has the same plump cheeks as his mom and the same softness in the gaze. His hair of a dark brown proves to John that of Doris is extremely colored.

"Hello, I'm John Watson," he comes to greet them with a tilt of the head, before taking support awkwardly against a shelf because no more chairs are free in the room.

"Doctor Watson is going to assist me during this interview," explains Lestrade by taking place on his leather armchair.

Doris briefly nods her head to say she understands and Benjamin looks alternately at both men. John doesn't very well know how to behave with this particular witness. He hasn't met a lot of people with Down syndrome in his life. He had a neighbor at the end of his street which the children of his age laughed at when they were young, but he never really knew if the man was simply a bit isolated or really handicapped. He finds comfort by thinking to himself that it would be worse if Sherlock was here.

"Mrs. Cox, can we speak in front of Benjamin or do you want us to speak in private, if it's easier?"

"I c-can speak about the concert," intervenes the youngest one with a stuttered but perfectly clear voice.

John has a sad smile which he masks very fast, slightly ill-at-ease of his blunder but the woman discreetly shakes her head to tell him that everything is okay - the habit to have to manage people who have no idea how to behave with her son, doubtless.

"The man who fired was, according to our estimations, placed behind the scene, near your seats. We need the maximum of information to close this case as fast as possible. You were placed in the 3rd row, is that correct?"

"Yes, we arrived a bit earlier, so that Benjamin could sit down without having to disturb the other spectators and we remained seated during the interlude. I have a vague memory of the people sitting next to us but I saw or heard nothing suspicious..."

"It was only the two of you?" asks John whose eyes remain, in spite of him, more attached to Doris than to her son.

"Yes, my husband, his father, is in Korea for professional reasons."

"Any chance that you knew the victim?" tries John with a tired laugh.

"He was a v-very good horn player," Benjamin intervenes, nodding his head with elegance.

Both men smile and the mother explains:

"Benjamin loves classical music..."

"Even if I prefer when nobody g-gets k-killed during my favorite tune," he ends with a shrug and this time, John gives a real laugh which relaxes the tense atmosphere of the room.

He opens his lips to ask another question when the door opens in a deafening crash. Wrapped in his long black coat, Sherlock looks up and down the room with a cold stare. He doesn't even notice Lestrade, seems to ignore Watson and directly looks at Doris and Benjamin. Bugger.

"Well, here is our quite small, and strangely walking suspect," he comments in a powerful voice, quoting the words used by Craig Jennings in the parking lot.

"I am fat because sport is bad for my heart and b-because my mother cooks very well. You don't look like someone whose mom is a g-good cooker," retorts Benjamin with a lot of ease, looking at Sherlock from head to feet.

"I live with my flatmate," retorts the detective, apparently hurt.

"The fact r-remains that you are obviously not eating a lot. Sometimes, when mom comes home late, we order Thai food. I can give you the number if you want, they deliver."

"Sherlock?" Lestrade intervenes by raising a hand to prevent him from answering, which immediately works.

The brown-haired man comes into the office and stands next to the windows. He crosses his hands behind his back and is looking at the Cox family with a superiority completely as equal as all the other times he questioned a suspect. John wants to roar, to ask for a little of condolence, but he knows that he doesn't have the necessary energy to explain to his flatmate what that is. It's with a light anxiety that John looks

at Benjamin to verify that Sherlock's attitude doesn't perturb him too much, but the youngest doesn't seem very embarrassed by the arrival of the most brilliant of the sociopaths.

"Why did you leave so fast when Mr. Sherrer was killed?"

Doris opens her eyes big but answers calmly:

"Well, I didn't want us to stay too long... There might have been other firings and a widespread panic over there. Ben has difficulty walking, we had to get out as quickly as possible."

"You had never seen a dead man before?" asks Sherlock, with a bit of mockery, looking at the son.

"Well of course I d-did, I watch the telly," he retorts with a disconcerting self-assurance. "But m-mom still thinks I'm a child."

There is no noise outside Lestrade's office, they are alone and between Sherlock and Benjamin, there are thick invisible clouds filled with very tangible flashes of lightning. Doris keeps her Olympian peace which John worships beyond words. It really is time to have a conversation with Sherlock concerning good manners.

"Then you saw him, why are you making me waste my time? Tell me all about it, how was Mr. Sherrer after being shot? Stretched out on the back? The stomach?" the detective starts again.

"On t-the back."

"Was there blood on the horn?"

"Sir, please," Mrs. Cox tries to calm the detective.

"I-I didn't..."

"He was following the conductor when the bullet drilled into his skull and exploded the parietal part of brain. The murderer was just next to you, you couldn't miss him. What happened on the row behind the stage during the concert?" barks Sherlock, tilted forward to Benjamin, both hands on the DI's desk.

"He was... He was an excellent musician. His horn, h-he..." stammers the youngest, breath obviously short under the pressure imposed by the detective.

"Sir!" shouts but Lestrade has already gotten up to put a hand on his friend's shoulder, to calm him.

"Leave me, Greg," the brown-haired man curses by rejecting the hand with a dry gesture, still not aware that Ben's rib cage is moving faster and faster as if he's running out of air. "You were the first ones standing up, you obviously saw something, think!"

"Sir, don't speak to my son like that!"

"He's an adult, stop coddling him and let me finish my interrogation."

"I don't know who you think you are, but I will not let you finish in these conditions. You owe us a minimum of respect."

"But I'm working," Sherlock spits, as if both notions were totally antithetic, and Doris gives an outraged laugh.

"M-mama..."

"See for yourself, you're suffocating him!" concludes Sherlock by pointing at the youngest, without knowing that he couldn't be more right.

Benjamin swallows a big breath of air and puts his right hand on his mother's forearm, who gets up automatically. She jumps when she notices his horribly white face, murmurs to him Everything will be all right, suddenly very quiet, perfectly mastered - the sad proof that she's used to this for far too long - and comes to unbutton the first button of his shirt before putting her hands on the plump cheeks. John runs up without waiting, takes the wrist of the youngest one to feel his pulse, and makes a sign to Gregory to tell him to open a window. From memory, he knows the fragile health of people with Down syndrome and that cardiac problems are frequent, then, they must be careful.

Benjamin briefly shakes his head to make them understand he's okay, has a half-smile which he gives to his mother reassuringly, and John takes advantage when Lestrade bends to see him to turn toward Sherlock. He wants to murder him only with his look and to promise him all at once with his eyes that Sherlock will pay for it, but the attitude of the detective is sufficient enough to make him understand that he has already understood his error.

Sherlock looks terribly young, his eyes are opened wide, the skin of an infernal paleness. His lips are half-opened, wild; the man with the ceaseless retort has nothing to say anymore.

"I am sorry," Greg murmurs to Doris who is wearing her smile like John used to carry his weapon during the war.

"I hope that you have all that you need. We are now leaving. Doctor, inspector," she greets before looking scornfully at Sherlock from top to bottom, without managing to tell him one word.

Benjamin is crossing the door when he turns around towards Sherlock, to whom he addresses a tiny smile:

"020 7371 7600. It's the number of the Thai. Their Som Taï are r-rather good, but I recommend their-r Thai Pat."

Sherlock frowns but smiles in his turn before answering in a little, pinched voice:

"I'll try to remember it."

Benjamin has the necessary intelligence to understand that it's the closest thing to an apology he can get. He follows his mother and Lestrade up to the ground floor. John closes the door by sighing noisily, to try to calm his heart, and turns around towards his flatmate.

"Sherlock..."

"I didn't know that you were going to question a suspect."

"Even so! You followed me. And for Christ's sake, it's not any suspect..."

"Is he a friend of Lestrade? A known personality? A member of the Royal family?"

The doctor gives an ironic laugh and puts a hand on his face but Sherlock is really serious. Then he asks, bewildered:

"You really didn't notice he was different?"

The detective opens his eyes wide and John can only do the same.

"I spent my life hearing that I was different, John, and if I learnt something, it's that it strictly means nothing. Everybody is different from others, I don't see that it has to change the way I should behave with him."

"Sherlock, it's..." begins the blond-haired man, voice quiet because sometimes his friend has the innocence of a child whom he doesn't dare to confront with the difficulty of the real world. "He is sick, I mean... He was born this way, he..." but the words don't come.

He could scientifically explain how Benjamin is different from them (an extra chromosome which upsets everything) but Sherlock already knows that. He doesn't have the words because he has no explanation; and in a way, Sherlock is right. It's strange to receive a lesson of life from Sherlock Holmes, it's not something John Watson would have thought possible. It's even crazier how this man never stops surprising him. He opens his lips, still a bit unsure of what he is going to answer (probably excuses, because he only knows to act that way when he hurts Sherlock) when Gregory comes back in the office, so furious that he immediately explodes:

"Fucking Christ, Sherlock what's your problem? If I called John and only John it's because I knew I could trust him and that you, you would blow up the whole thing!"

"Calm down, Gavin," answers the detective, raising his eyes to heaven, as an impolite and suddenly extremely cold teenager, which irritates Lestrade even more - and John has never seen him like this.

"And stop with that! It's been three years, why can't you move on? You're pissing me off me, do you hear me? You..." but the oldest stops all at once when his mobile vibrates on the table, in a ridiculous noise.

He sighs, tells the brown-haired man to wait, and quickly drops out by turning his back on them in front of the window.

"Hello? Yeah, I'm at work, I don't have a lot of time... Ah, yes, in the second drawer."

Sherlock raises eyes to the sky again, dangerously close to the eye cramp, and moves closer to John near the door, ready to leave as soon as they can. The ex-soldier crosses his hands in front of him and rocks from his heels up to the point of his feet before murmuring to Sherlock:

"You're right concerning Benjamin. But you have to be more careful, he's cardiac."

"I understand. I won't get mad again that way."

"And you will have to apologise to his mother."

"Oh, she will love that. Furthermore, the interrogation is not finished, Benjamin was going to speak. I am sure that he saw something he didn't have time to tell me."

Both flatmates are looking at the DI to verify if his phone call will end soon. He gives them a vague sign of the hand to tell them to wait still, before starting again:

"Listen Elisa, I have to go. What? Ah, yes, well Tuesday I suppose."

John opens his eyes wide and turns his head to Sherlock, who is suddenly buttoning his coat, as if extremely pressed to leave.

"Elisa? Elisa with the collar... Emh, Elisa whom we met at Molly's birthday?"

Sherlock raises his eyes to John and in his dark pupils is roared a booming Keep your mouth shut. Lestrade doesn't speak any more either, he raises his eyes towards John, eyebrows so frowned they're making the wrinkles on his forehead more visible than ever. It takes him a few seconds of silence before concluding:

"I'll call you back. See you tonight."

He hangs up with his thumb and puts the telephone delicately on his desk before leaning on his closed fists, murmuring raucously with a voice much more creepy than when he shouted:

"You know Elisa?"

"We have to go, John, don't you have some shopping to do for the preparations of my surprise birthday?" Sherlock hurries to answer by opening the door, which makes the DI shout:

"Close this door, Sherlock! It is you who presented him to Elisa?"

"She was at Molly's birthday," explains John a bit lost, eyes quickly passing from his flatmate to his friend.

"You should rather explain to me what is going on, Sherlock," Lestrade grumbles by squeezing his fists on his papers.

"Wait for me outside," dictates the detective by considering the door opened to his friend who half-opens his lips, but he immediately stops him with three small words. "It's an order."

John says nothing, he just shakes his head once and leaves right away. There are many people in the immense open space so he leans against an empty desks and looks at the glazed office where he just guesses at the dancing silhouettes of his two friends, their shouts suffocated by the thickness of the glass. He concentrates all his senses to understand a word, a gesture, but nothing. It's a terrible feeling to be left behind. Put aside. Protected.

He slowly crosses his arms against his trunk without even winking. He isn't really sure yet if he likes his current position, the one that Sherlock dictated to him, but he cannot refrain from thinking that his flatmate acted that way to protect John from hearing something that wouldn't please him. Nevertheless, the doctor is persuaded that he could face it, he knows to be strong. As to knowing if he wants to face it, nothing is less certain.

The door of the office opens suddenly and Sherlock walks out of it, cheekbones red and his gaze wilder than an animal's. He gives no gesture to John but the blond-haired man is already on his heels anyway. He turns around just in time to see Lestrade, in the same physical state as his flatmate, tidying up some files furiously. He waits until they are out of Scotland Yard to ask Sherlock:

"Okay, what just happened?"

"Nothing, Lestrade and I only had a discussion."

"About Elisa? Because it's a problem that I know her? Sherlock, what's going on between her and Greg?"

The tall man stops all at once and John has to move back two steps to return to his level. He raises his small snub nose towards him and can only admire his upper smile.

"Ah, I thought that you would be quicker than that to understand."

"To understand what?"

"That Lestrade is the one who offered the collar to Elisa. You surely didn't think she put it on by herself, did you?"

Chapter Text

Note: Hello dear readers. Many thanks for the latest comments and kudos - 212 oh my God, you guys are the best! As you already know, all the streets I'm mentioning really do exist and as I'm now living in London thanks to my work, I'll be able to actually go to the places I had in mind before writing my chapters :D I just wanted to tell you, as I love including some realism in my stories.
Beta: Oh my, I'm loving her more and more every time; Morwen Maranwe, thank you a billion times doll!


John turns the key once in the creaking lock and trots, more than he walks, to the reception desk where he puts down his keys, like every time he works at the clinic. He smiles at the receptionist, slides the pad where he noted his appointments (even the cancelled ones) on the counter, and doesn't turn his head before passing by the double glass door. Lately, the desire to meet Barrow is as attractive as putting his hand under a lawn mower.

At least working here isn't too difficult to manage, which really is good news because John's spirit has absolutely no more capacity for concentration on this part of his life, lately. When he asks Mr. Carlisle to cough, for example, he thinks about Benjamin's jerky breath. When he verifies the eczema of Mrs. Lang's youngest daughter, it's Sheri and her shy reddened cheek that comes back to his mind. And when he sits down behind his office and he waits alone for his next patient, it's Sherlock of whom he thinks.

They still haven't talked about what's going on between the two of them (whatever is going on) since John's knees bit the dust of Tesco with not much grace. And John thinks about it. Every day.

It's been the case since Sherlock raised his hand, his finger approaching the collarbone marked by a bullet and a bad operation, which the ex-soldier will remember all his life. He hadn't touched John but that didn't prevent the blond-haired man from feeling him, more than ever. It's because the youngest man spoke about the scar without feigned fascination that this moment remains engraved in his memory, as if a bad boy would have written his name on the classroom's wooden table with a Stanley knife. And Sherlock is a brat, everybody knows that.

Clara said that he thinks being weak is shameful. There's no proof more concrete, more red and swollen than his scar, to prove that John Watson had real moments of weakness in his life. The trembling knees when the most beautiful girl in school kisses you, that doesn't count. When the heart beats so widly that it seems to want to go back up into the throat, to tear away from the veins, to take support on the molars and to appear far from this sweaty body - all this because you have no strength to press the trigger and it's the enemy's bullet that implants in your body, there is no stronger moment of weakness than that.

His shrink said that he had trust issues. Of course John Watson has trust issues, he knows better than anyone that we can trust no one. If he had not hesitated, before firing at the twenty-year-old Afghan kid who entered camp Bastion, lost in this intrusive and absurd war, he would never have given him the possibility to fire two bullets. The first one which landed in his own shoulder and the second in Matthew Rosemond's stomach. And that would never have happened if Matthew hadn't trusted him in the first place. John just knows that.

When he crosses Rosebery Avenue, he looks twice on each side before putting his feet on the crosswalk. He keeps his fists squeezed along his legs and never looks down. John Watson must always keep control.

He slows down when he arrives on Westgate Street because the children of London Field primary school are getting out, too-heavy bags on their shoulders and snacks brought by their mothers already in the hands of the fastest ones. He smiles when he hears a small red-haired girl, of whom both front teeth are missing, trying to explain to her friend why Santa Claus really exists, and lets a nanny with two kids holding on to both sides of a stroller pass in front of him, before raising his eyes.

It gives him a blow in the stomach, discreet but real, when he sees a man hidden in a long grey coat, a hat way too big on his head. The man has his hands in his pockets and his static presence between the children's laughter and the parents, in a hurry because they are double-parked, is terrible. Something is not right.

The man turns around and goes slowly in a neighboring alley and when John understands he's following a boy about seven years old, he jumps up and accelerates between families to make a way. He by-passes a mother with arms charged by her children's bags, before rushing into the pathway. The boy scampers, slows down at the end of the street and waves at a grey car which stops next to him. There's a tall woman who gets out of it to open the rear door. She's not particularly soft with him but at least the resemblance is striking: the boy joined his mother.

The man in the long coat seems to understand all the same because he turns back with the speed of a dog taken in fault. John intervenes on his path, keeps his feet firmly put on the pavement covered with chewing gum, and catches him by the shoulders when he tries to by-pass him:

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he roars, shaking him harder than planned.

"N-Nothing, I was... Mr. Watson?"

John opens his eyes wide, pushes away the annoying hat and gasps under the surprise.

"Jennings? What are you doing here?"

The driver quickly puts back his hat and pushes away the doctor until they're changing streets. He raises his collar and murmurs coarsely:

"My ex mustn't sees me!"

"What? Wait, you were following... your son?"

"Well yeah, how could I see him, otherwise? On Thursdays, his mother is always late because she has gym or I don't know what. It's Tim who told it to me last month, when I had him on a weekend. So every Thursday, I come to see him and sometimes she's an hour late, we can speak for a long time. I don't know why she's on time today, that bitc... Anyway," he coughs to refrain himself from saying a word which could be held against him.

John's eyes open wide again and after the peak of tension, he explodes in laughter, leaning against the wall nearby.

"Shit, Jennings, I thought you were a pervert. Stop coming here in a grey raincoat, it really is suspicious."

"Ah? I put it on to not draw attention..."

"It does just the opposite," John smiles, putting a friendly hand on the driver's shoulder. "It's time to go. Do you take the Tube?"

"Yeah," he sadly answers, looking one last time behind his shoulder before following the doctor.

They walk side by side for about ten minutes before entering the first station they see. Sat in a dangling car, John thinks suddenly again about the interrogation which had taken place in the parking lot:

"By the way, we found the suspect you described as small and fa... Well, the man you saw leaving quickly after the shooting."

"Ah, it was him then, the guy you were looking for?"

"I doubt it."

"That means that you still didn't find the bastard who did it?"

"... No," admits John, without really managing to hide the shame behind the confession.

"You're a little bit long, aren't you?"

"We have other things to settle."

"Yeah? Like what?" asks the youngest with a real naivety which John could almost find touching if he wasn't ready to answer, 'My sexuality'.

They leave each other three stations further, when John goes out to go back to Baker Street, very quiet at this time of afternoon as Sherlock has returned to the mortuary to see Sherrer's body again. They only have one suspect left to meet; Jared Steele, a fifty year old financial engineer, who left for Eastern Europe for his affairs the day after the murder, who will come back to Britain in a few days. Holmes insisted, with his baritone voice, that he wanted to repatriate the man as soon as possible, but Steele is apparently a recognised engineer whom Lestrade defended, persuaded that a man of his calibre would never kill an unimportant musician. From suspect, Steele automatically passed in the witness compartment and this side of the story doesn't interest the detective more than that.

John wants to stick a head in to see his house keeper but he finds the door closed. He goes to the second floor, makes a cup of tea with bergamot and orange, and takes a place on the sofa before sliding the computer on his knees. Contorting his feet, he removes his shoes, inhales profoundly and relaxes his neck by massing it with his free hand. He's always better seated in his armchair, but he doesn't like sitting in it when Sherlock is not there. To face the empty black leather seat is something really sad.

He goes on his blog in search of new cases, but there are only people curious to know if they finally found the murderer of the concert. He mutters quite low, opens a new window (virgin proof that he and Sherlock are really making a pitiful work) and watches the Google logo livening up for a long time, drinking his perfectly infused tea.

There, no doubt he's alone. With spare time. It's good. No, in fact it's slightly alarming and completely useless, but he heard so many of his colleagues whining they didn't have free time that he says to himself that he can at least try to find pleasure in inactivity. At least once. With his mouse, he follows the shaking G, launches for the eighth time the animation and decides to change his wallpaper. He passes from the black and white landscape to the zoom of a green frog. Which is not particularly interesting.

He returns to the Internet and puts down his almost empty cup before putting his fingers a few inches away from the keyboard (even if he always uses his indexes only without being conscious of it). He gives it a try and searches for the first words that come to his head: Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, he finds at first his flatmate's website, which he's looking at more by reflex than from real curiosity because he knows it by heart already. On the results page, his blog comes in the second position and it makes him laugh how everybody is associating them, as if they were salt and pepper (in this precise case, of course Sherlock would be the pepper; bearable in small dose and always fiery). He already knows all that, then he types 'Sherlock Holmes and flatmate', with a stupid hope to see if Lestrade would be mentioned but without surprise, he only reads his own name. He then tries 'Who really is Sherlock Holmes', 'Does Sherlock Holmes pretend to be allergic to wash liquid to avoid doing the dishes' and 'Is Sherlock Holmes the work of the devil' before giving up, due to the lack of convincing answers.

He still has a single question, before moving on, then he prepares his indexes proudly over the touches and types, letter after letter, the tip of the tongue out between his lips, in a grimace of extreme concentration: 'Is Sherlock Holmes gay'.

He frowns his fair eyebrows and bends forward until almost crushing his nose against the screen. The first proposed site (a porn one which he had never consulted before), entitled its page 'Sherlock Holmes and the very private search'. He clicks on it, too far gone to stop there, and the video launches, in a website surrounded with small miniatures of very ambiguous images which he doesn't even notice.

It's not possible it's really Sherlock but that doesn't prevent him from straightening his body, his two feet on the ground, the heel of the right one shaking unconsciously. In the video, there's only a bedroom which seems to be made with cardboard, and an ordinary brown-haired man who mimes waiting with the subtlety of a chain saw. The camera (trembling, don't they have at least a tripod to put it on?) turns around to a tall man, with crazy and dark brown hair, wrapped up in a long black coat. John knows the real coat by heart and he sighs, reassured, seeing that it's not the detective's. Sherlock Holmes could very probably play in a porn movie but he would never wear an acrylic coat.

The resemblance is not really striking, apart from the hair and way the man puts his long fingers between them (and that twists John's stomach in a slightly too-insistent way). The fictitious Sherlock begins to question the man seated on the bed, if you can use the verb question while he asks him if he feels at ease and if he doesn't want to remove his shirt, seeing that apparently it's too hot. John gets up, puts the computer on his place on the sofa to keep it warm and catch his cup before hastening his steps up to the kitchen where he makes a new tea.

"You are a major witness in this case," Sherlock's pale imitation plays with a smooth voice.

"But, detective, I don't remember what I saw..."

"I may have something to help you recover your memory... "

John stops stirring his spoon in the cup for one second to listen to the next sentence and recognises the noise of an opening fly. He explodes in laughter and says out loud:

"If we had to do this every time we see a witness..."

"... John?"

Oh. No. Bugger. He leaves his steaming cup, takes three enormous steps and comes back in the living-room. In the entrance, Sherlock's looking at him, his eyes so wide open they seem ready to fall out of their orbits, arms a little tangled in the coat he was removing. Their gazes are connected, they're holding on, like two tightrope walkers on a thread at the edge of breaking. It's the first groan coming out of the computer's poor quality speakers that gives the kick-off.

John jumps up, by-passes his armchair, Sherlock drops his coat on the ground, the doctor crosses over the top of the coffee table but the detective has already thrown himself on the sofa to catch the computer. The oldest is not passive, he tries by all means to close the screen but the fingers of the brown-haired man are preventing him from it.

"Give me that, Sherlock!"

Of course he's not listening to the doctor, he's struggling on the sofa on which he eventually stretches out, John on his knees near him, hands mixed with his to try to unstick the fingers. If the blond haired-man doesn't manage to completely close the screen, at least, he prevents his flatmate from opening it enough to see the video. Good thing their shouts are muffling the groans of both actors.

"John!" Sherlock eventually barks, "Your fly is opened."

He opens his eyes wide, blushes in shame with the same tint as his favorite armchair and automatically leaves the computer to put his hands between his legs, but he sees his perfectly closed jeans - and worse, the buttons, he doesn't even have a fly. He slowly raises his head, very aware that Sherlock used this childish excuse so that he could open the computer as he pleased, and it's exactly what he did. He's looking without embarrassment, his mediocre understudy French-kissing the witness, and sighs, as if profoundly disappointed:

"Ah, you're watching this one."

"I was looking for a thing and I accidentally found this..." answers John, coughing, hiding his crimson cheeks behind his useless fist. "Wait, what do you mean 'this one'? You watched - searched - porn movies staging you?"

Sherlock automatically turns his head to his flatmate and this time it's his cheeks which are growing pink:

"Change of topic?" he proposes, with a slightly pinched voice.

"Change of topic," John confirms by energetically nodding the head.

They get up both of a jump. The youngest man closes the computer without waiting, dusts his jacket, and they both go to the antipodes of the room. It's not really surprising that Mrs. Hudson calls them "my boys", they are not more mature than teenagers when they act like this.

"You will never guess who I saw this afternoon!" declares the blond-haired man, already cleaning his cup to have something to do with his hands.

"Craig Jennings," answers Sherlock, not impressed at all, standing next to the window, inspecting a rope of his violin.

"... Yeah," responds John, almost sulking, who doesn't even know how his roommate can possibly know that. "Do you know exactly when Steele returns?"

"No. But we'll have to question Sheri Walsh and Benjamin Cox again."

"Greg will never let you question Benjamin, after what you did to him..."

"I did nothing to him, I acted completely natural," the youngest curses, pinching a rope in an improbable sound.

"Yes, precisely," specifies John, arriving in his turn in the living-room, drying his hands with a cloth which he then puts on the back of his seat.

He just has time to see Sherlock's eyes heightening in their orbits before he turns around to face the window, and begins a series of long notes, doubtless improvised, to verify that he tuned his instrument correctly. John slows down his gestures, by-passes his armchair on which he sits down. Between being alone with spare time and being able to listen to Sherlock, his bad mood and his creaking violin, it's not really useful anymore to pretend the first solution really holds the weight of the comparison. He rests his arms against the stuffed armrests, blocks his mouth in a discreet smile and sometimes closes his eyes when Sherlock improvises an oriental melody.

That lasts one minute or maybe ten. It's useless to know exactly the number of seconds which are passing by, anyway. John feels good. Worse, John feels brave. He waits while Sherlock tidies up his instrument in his case silently before asking him, in a very quiet voice:

"What happened between you and Elisa?"

The brown-haired man looks at his flatmate for one second and stops tidying up his instrument, answering:

"Nothing."

That makes the doctor laugh. He shakes his head slightly, before subsiding a little more in his armchair.

"You were right Sherlock..."

"I am always ri..."

"No, keep your mouth shut, will you," he interrupts, raising a hand. "I need to know if I can trust you."

The detective straightens up, suddenly serious and apparently concentrating. He closes his case and takes a seat in front of his flatmate. He's not making his Supreme Being position (when he crosses his legs and joins his hands by sticking the end of the fingers together). He sits as a human being, two feet on the ground, elbows resting against his knees, slightly tilted forward, and John has the boldness to believe that it's an unconscious way for Sherlock to bow in front of his demands.

"There is nothing between Elisa and I. I already told you, having a girlfriend is not really... my area."

"Without being a couple, you could have slept together," proposes the doctor, without any hostility in his voice.

"We have never slept together."

"Is she a friend, then?" asks John, a smile on his lips, very aware that the question will make his friend jump.

"I believe we could say that."

Not the expected answer. He opens his eyes a bit wider before blinking them quickly and straightens up in his seat. He doesn't think anymore about the porn video, their childish quarrel, and the violin. When he can trust Sherlock Holmes, nothing else really matters.

"And what is going on between Elisa and Greg?"

"They're sleeping together," answers Sherlock, raising a shoulder.

"At least it's clear..."

"We met Elisa during a case a few years ago. She works in a luxury hotel where there had been a murder and we went to question her."

"And... it is serious between them? Have they been seeing each other for a long time?" wonders John, without knowing really why, but Sherlock simply makes a movement with his shoulder. "Which means?"

"A few months... 12, maybe."

"Well, you mean a year."

"Plus a few more months..."

"Sherlock..." laughs John, "You are telling me that Greg is actually in love. And even if you seem to like Elisa a lot, I have the impression that you are jealous that somebody nicked your friend."

The detective raises his eyes so high in the sky that he seems to want to hide them at the bottom of his orbits. He gets up, ready to make the tour of John's armchair, but is quickly stopped when the doctor's hand slowly winds around his wrist. Still seated, the elder one is looking at him, a frank smile on the lips.

"I prefer when you are like that. Sincere."

"I never lie to you, John. Have you any other questions?"

He shakes his head no, then the detective starts again:

"I do have one, actually. Does that mean that I can touch you now?" he wonders, looking at John's fingers still intertwined around his wrist.

They're looking at each other, Sherlock overhanging him with all his magnificent height, and in his body sunk in the seat which rocked him so many times, John feels his heart echoing like a wild animal in his cage made of bone, in the stitches of his pullover, in every fiber of his armchair. He doesn't use his mouth, because sometimes words are too much, vulgar, the sounds aggressive and interpretable. And John wants no artifice. He simply nods his head, and to move the muscles of his neck has never given him this strange and slightly addicting impression that he has jumped into space.

Slowly, Sherlock leans on the armrest. He doesn't remove his hand from John's influence but the doctor still understands, without needing words. He spreads his fingers to undo his soft grip and, skin against skin, Sherlock's fingers slide against his. Their gestures have the slowness of the first time, the falling taste of prohibition. Their palms make contact finally John has a timid smile when he feels the soft-looking skin of the youngest one rubbing against his and finds that it is actually rough. Old, almost.

Their fingers are brushing each other and while the soldier breathes in, persuaded that they're going to become entangled (a gesture he's always found a nameless intimacy in), he sees his flatmate's continuing their path before closing with delicacy around his own wrist. He smiles, an actor in the front row of a reversal of situation of a delicious elegance, and opens his mouth but no sound comes out of it. He plays a bit with his jaw before raising his eyes towards his friend:

"I'm breaking all of my principles by letting you do that, you know."

"And does that frighten you?"

"Among other things."

"Does that mean you're beginning to trust me?"

John smiles, and the fine wrinkles at the corners of his eyes embody the very concrete answer Sherlock was waiting for.

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone! A billion thanks to Morwen Maranwe who managed to correct this chapters early enough so I could publish it today. Why especially today? Because it's my birthday and I wanted to give you a present, dear readers :) I hope you'll enjoy this chapter and would love to hear from you.


It's in all the newspapers, on TV, and everywhere on the Internet: Philipp Sherrer, 37 years old, horn player at the Royal London Orchestra, was killed during a performance, in front of hundreds of witnesses, and his murderer is still unknown.

What began as a horrifying murder has now transformed into a political cabal, and now all the parties of England are stepping into the breach. There are debates about internal security every day of the week on television, filled with hazy election promises and apocalyptic lies from the most extreme parties which are taking advantage of this mess to spread their stupid ideas. It's making London sick, stuck in a flu-like state which is numbing its members and making its head spin.

They couldn't have chosen a worse moment to discover this loophole in their relationship, where Sherlock has slid with so much ease while John is seriously starting to consider it as the only exit. Of course he's not gay, and of course he's not heterosexual, either, but to start a relationship (other than a friendly one) with his flatmate is a whole new level.

Seated on the leather armchair in his office, he gets lost in the alternative reality of another encounter with Sherlock, in Bastion Camp in Iraq, one evening before his garrison would have been called to the South of the country. Because it's often that which urged him to break the basic heterosexual education which society imposed on him: the idea that everything can change, even life, which can stop in an instant.

Sherlock would have been a soldier - not a high-ranking officer, going by his not slender stature. John, a Captain, would have noticed him for sure, because a tall man with such beautiful eyes and improbable cheekbones would have never been able to walk around unnoticed. In Bastion, he met so many rude people that Sherlock and his aristocratic way of talking would have clashed, like a gold nugget in the middle of the mud. They would have seen each other only once, one evening when they met for a rendezvous in John's bedroom, after John had murmured to him how he could be found when meeting him in the canteen.

They wouldn't have spoken a lot. Well, John doesn't think so. They would have left the lights off. Because John would have been the one in charge that evening. It's strange to think of that now, while he's looking at the wrist Sherlock had squeezed hard a few days ago. It's even stranger to think how much, before the incident, he would have acted like the Captain of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers who he was.

But there's this bullet, this one bullet, which tore away his skin and tendons, which tore his muscles and exploded his bones, and it's this bullet which made him understand, in a most crappy way, that all of this is bullshit. It made him understand that this control he's imposing on his life, with the same sourness of a rope you put on an unfortunate's neck, will never save him.

"John, we've been calling you for 10 minutes, are you sleeping or what?"

The doctor jumps up on the spot and clenches his teeth to hold in an insult which could damage his superior's ego, but he cannot refrain from growling out:

"I finished my day, Mark."

"Yes and you'll agree to make overtime. Isabella had to leave earlier to pick up her daughter or whatever. It's the last time I'm hiring a mother, I swear. Wake up now, everybody's waiting for you," Barrow curses, snapping his fingers like he is talking to a dog, before leaving the office with a heavy step.

A quick look at his mobile and John sighs; two hours left before the surprise birthday party for his flatmate.


"Are you okay John? You look stressed out. Sherlock's suspecting something, right?" asks Molly, licking her thumb where a bit of taramasalata slid while she's furnishing the small toasts made by Mrs. Hudson.

"Eh? Oh, no, don't worry. I was just wondering if they were hiring at Marie Stopes Central..."

"What, did you get the axe again?" exclaims the house keeper, dropping her wooden spoon in the bowl she's holding against her stomach.

"What do you mean again? It happened only twice... And no, I didn't get the axe."

"Not yet," mutters Mrs. Hudson, looking away. If it has the merit to make Molly laugh, that makes the doctor jump up.

"I was just wondering, that's all."

"You're still having a hard time with your boss?" asks Molly with a soft voice.

"I thought of putting my fist in his mouth only twice today, so that's progress."

They smile, looking at each other from the corner of their eyes, and become silent again. Sherlock and John agreed on the fact that the detective would feign surprise when entering the living-room this evening. Every year he forbids people to wish him a happy birthday (he bit John when the doctor started to sing the prohibited tune last year), but it pleases their house-keeper and friends so much to gather round to celebrate his birth. Meanwhile he can only put up with this, raising his eyes to heaven so many times he's close to an eye cramp.

John doesn't know where Sherlock is right now, but he truly hopes his friend had a sort of illumination to advance the case, because the pressure to find the killer is hard to handle. They read the report of the coroner again and it's clear the shooter was placed behind Sherrer because the bullet drilled through the back of his skull. The ballistics established a perimeter where the shooting could have been made. If it really turns out that Steele is innocent, that means they have already met the killer.

Craig Jennings? Too stupid...

Anna Sanchez? Too proud...

Angie Walsh? Too young...

Sheri Walsh? Too beautiful...

Doris Cox? Too intelligent...

Benjamin Cox? Too... him.

He sighs, stops cutting the carrots that his house keeper gave him into sticks, and goes to the lounge where his mobile is ringing.

"Hello?"

"It's Greg. I had to go to my place first to take a shower -it's the second time a jerk pissed on me this week- I'll be there in 10 minutes. He's not there yet?"

"No, not yet."

"He knows we're throwing him a surprise party, right?"

"Of course."

"Okay. I'll bring the wine."

"Gregory, wait. You can... well, Elisa can come too, you know."

Long silence. Maybe an error to mention her.

"Ah. Sherlock told to you about her then."

"Don't blame him, it's me who insisted. I'm glad you're in a relationship, Greg. I don't mind that..."

That you offered your girl a collar that you ask her to wear in public, and maybe you're using a leash, too, and that you're doing God knows what - and Sherlock of course.

"... That you didn't tell me before," he ends, swallowing heavily.

"OK, well... Thank you. I guess. I'll see if she's available. See you later."

When John hangs up he ignores the alarming feeling that he made a big mistake with a lot of ease.


When Sherlock walks through the door of Baker Street's first floor, all his present friends forget the 25 minutes of waiting and come out of their hiding places, shouting a striking "Surprise!" full of laughter which makes him (deceitfully) jump. He rolls his eyes with a feigned disdain, while his smile betrays his real amusement, and lets them come to embrace him. Of course, there are only Mrs. Hudson and Molly who allow themselves this madness because John and Greg are too virile to offer him more than a handshake. It takes until the last guest to come and greet Sherlock for his eyebrows to lift so high it's clear that it's not a joke.

"Happy birthday Sherlock."

"Elisa..."

"John kindly invited me," she smiles, coming against Lestrade who holds her with his right hand.

"Really?" asks Sherlock, in a perfectly controlled grin.

"Anybody want some wine?" proposes the doctor, quite proud to really have managed to surprise his flatmate.

They're stretching out their glasses and Mrs. Hudson already rushes on her record player to play a jazz tune. Molly is lovely as always, she politely apologises to John for Andy's absence as he isn't able to come (a story of a new plants delivery that the doctor doesn't really listen to). She and Elisa are now sitting on the sofa and their laughs are invading the room.

Sherlock unpacks the present that Mrs. Hudson couldn't hold off on offering to him, the Schubert score she bought. Of course Sherlock already figured out she'd offer him that because he's giving her a present in return: a small box in which she finds two earplugs. She's quite disappointed her surprise isn't really one but the thought is so funny she says nothing in return.

"I'm going to smoke," the DI murmurs in John's ear, putting his jacket on.

"I'll come with you."

They get dressed in the staircase and go out in the small yard behind Mrs. Hudson's kitchen. Lestrade offers a cigarette to his friend, who politely refuses with a shake of his head. Even if he doesn't smoke, the cold makes his mouth produce a thick smoke anyway.

"What did you want to tell me?" asks Gregory, because it's clear that John wouldn't have come down with him just for the pleasure of freezing his ass off.

"About this story with Elisa and Sherlock. I'm sorry that you feel obliged to hide it from me."

"Don't apologise..."

"I do, really. I'm sorry I gave you the impression I couldn't be trusted, so that you couldn't tell me you were in a relationship. And I'm sorry that Sherlock told me without any restraint that you... offered her a collar. And that she was the kind of girl to wear one," John murmurs, hands in his pockets, his mouth hidden behind the collar of his jacket.

"You see, it's exactly to avoid this kind of awkwardness that I didn't want Sherlock to get involved in it."

"No, no, there's no awkwardness. The only embarrassment he caused was telling me details of your private life -whatever you're doing- and that's none of my business," he smiles.

"Well, I didn't think of having this conversation with you one day but thank you. I thought you were more the kind of man to avoid this kind of thing."

"I don't really know what kind of man I am supposed to be any more," John laughs bitterly, rocking from one foot to the other.

"A damned courageous one to put up with Sherlock's bullshit, that's for sure. In any case, don't be embarrassed with Elisa or me. We'll just keep to ourselves that Sherlock told you everything and it'll go well. And if you ever feel like you were a bad boy who needs a spanking one day, you know where I live."

"..."

"I'm kidding."

"Ah," the doctor expires, feeling his shoulders relaxing all at once.

"I thought you had more humor than that," the DI smiles widely, crushing his cigarette end on the ground.

He taps John's shoulder as the doctor gives him an amused smile. When an ice-cold breeze comes to rub their badly shaved cheeks, they both shiver before going inside by a silent mutual agreement.


The fact that Baker Street's first floor needs to be tidied up, that's a sine qua non constant that no reasonable human being would come to question. But the fact that what needs to be cleaned are wineglasses and empty snacks wrapping, that's rarer.

Mrs. Hudson nevertheless insists on tidying up (by pleading that if she wasn't doing it, nobody would do it and it would be one more reason for her to keep the deposit check), but after the magnificent buffet she prepared for the detective, John doesn't have the heart to take advantage of any more of her kindness.

Lestrade and Elisa are the first ones to leave. She's younger than him and a bit taller too, but they look so well together that John is slightly jealous, quite frankly. He doesn't know exactly how long it's been since he's had this kind of relationship with somebody, and a small very unpleasant voice murmurs at the bottom of his skull, "Never," which makes him pull faces. Meanwhile, he has this relationship with Sherlock.

Sherlock is now sitting on his armchair, deciphering with his dancing eyes the score given to him by Mrs. Hudson. Of course, he doesn't raise his little finger to help the doctor. That's not a bad thing, seeing that tidying up with Sherlock Holmes is as useful as exercising by eating french fries. The detective always finds a souvenir or a collected proof from a previous investigation and they find themselves seated on the ground, remembering the cases they went through together.

"Do you have any news concerning Sherrer?" asks John, piling glasses and flatware dangerously in a bowl.

"Steele landed in Heathrow in the afternoon."

"We'll see him soon then?"

"Tomorrow, 10 o'clock."

"It's about time. Sherlock, it's him, right? All the others whom we questioned cannot have killed Sherrer?"

John puts his mountain of dishes in the busy kitchen sink and turns around towards the lounge where his flatmate is finally leaving his armchair. Sherlock has his eyebrows slightly frowned and his teeth are biting hard on his lower lip. It's rare to see the detective doubting, but when it happens, bloody hell that's creepy.

John pinches his lips from top to bottom and nods his head once. It's his typical Watson way of putting a stop to the conversation (because the Watson family are experts in keeping silent). He lets the water pour just what's needed and gets ready to raise his sleeves before realising he first needs to open the cuff links. With one hand, it's quite tricky, but Sherlock's already in front of him and doing that thing that's so simple and nevertheless so dangerous, which consists of raising his hands and approaching John with them. His gestures have the delicacy of a soap bubble and the doctor doesn't even breathe for fear of bursting it. But Sherlock's face is perfectly calm. He pinches his fingers around the sleeve he's starting to unbutton.

"Would you let me tie your wrists?" he asks with a soft voice. Mesmerizing, almost.

John half-opens his lips, but his Adam's apple seems to mistake itself for beef because it's so big that it stops any attempt to reply. Not medically possible but bothersome all the same.

"And would you let me tie them behind your back?"

It's not a conversation any more. It's a sanctuary where the words seem to bow before the altar which looks like the thing that John loves more than anything in the world: his will. Because he hasn't dreamt it, Sherlock has really asked him a question - even two, for God's sake. He doesn't extort confessions from him, doesn't take what interests him before throwing it away like any experience. He asks for it.

"Would you let me blindfold your eyes? Would you let me undress you completely, in the middle of the living-room, in broad daylight?"

He now passes to the second button, which he's taking care of with the same application, taking his time.

"I might have explained to you what I'm doing poorly. I shouldn't have let you in the bar at Molly's birthday. I didn't answer you clearly and it was a mistake. Yes, I do those things," he smiles slowly, using the same words as John had that particular evening. "But you don't know what BDSM consists of, right? It's not a reproach; even I, a few years ago, knew nothing before someone explained it to me."

Sherlock's hands release the button and settle on the doctor's shoulders, lower than his, that he's carefully dusting.

"There will be no chains, no dark and wet cellar. No latex, or woman in leather insulting you in German, either. You can remove these ineptitudes out of your head. It's not a question of suffering or shame."

The hands finish their meticulous movements and release him. John doesn't know where they are right now, in the infinite space which his body isn't using, but it's not really possible to break contact with Sherlock's eyes.

"It's a question of domination and submission."

He approaches, and who would have thought that a single step was already a lot? He entered this private and much closed space and now John's air is hitting Sherlock's chin. It is primitive, somehow visceral. And so terribly traitor, because John breathes messily...

"And I am the one in charge."

The hands close around the wrists of the soldier and squeeze, hard. They could squeeze so much more and it's exactly what John's thinking about, everything that could be so much more. The detective ends his murmurs by smiling one last time, and John finds in the forest of improper words invading his brain, the only possible answer:

"Emh.. ph?"

It's not really an assertion, not a question either. It's not even a word you can find in the damn dictionary. That has at least the merit to make Sherlock smile. Then he whispers again, decomposing every word to be sure to be understood:

"I'm going to kiss you now."

There's a metallic taste invading John's mouth and it's maybe because he bit himself hard enough to bleed, but he doesn't feel anything. If Sherlock kisses him, will he also taste this unpleasantness? Did John at least brush his teeth? And are they going to use their tongues? Shit, Sherlock's questions were so mesmerizing that now the soldier can only think in questions.

John half-opens his lips to answer, but those of Sherlock are closing on the inside of his right wrist, which he raised up to his face. He closes his eyes and presses his wet mouth against the hot skin with a lot of attention. It's from the end of his lips that's he's putting down offerings which have no words to be described. That almost make John groan because the sensibility of his skin is uncontrollable. He keeps his eyes wide open and contemplates the kitchen ceiling and he's never seen it under this angle, he's never been kissed here, like this and by him.

"Safeword?" offers Sherlock, and John seems to find that offending because he hurries to answer:

"No."

"What do you want, John?"

"Your bedroom." And it doesn't frighten the doctor to have pronounced these words because his voice doesn't tremble, and because he is looking at the detective with an invulnerable intensity, and for the second time of the evening, John really manages to surprise his flatmate.

"Now?"

"Now."

Chapter Text

Note: Extra, billion thanks to Morwen Maranwe for her amazing job! I hope you guys will like this chapter as much as I liked to write it. I must say, writing smut in English has always been one of my goal in life. It's a dream coming true :). Enjoy your reading dear readers and I'd love to know what you think about this chapter!


One eye opening after the other, John does his best to keep his head from falling forward before answering:

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said: is everything all right? You look exhausted. Both of you," Gregory repeats, putting both ordered coffees on his desk.

He takes a seat and looks at them alternately, their rings inflated and their eyes hardly opened. They have said almost nothing since they have arrived at Scotland Yard. He has already found them more than once in this state, after nights spent running in pursuit of a umpteenth gangster. It's almost by habit that he sighs, drinking his own latte:

"What the hell did you do last night..."

Both flatmates turn their heads at the same moment and look at each other without a sound. Yesterday evening was rather unpredictable.


Seven hours earlier.

Maybe it wasn't the best pair of socks to be wearing. Should he take them off already? At least, these weren't resewn, which is doing a little bit to make up for this embarrassing situation.

Seated on Sherlock Holmes' bed, John leaps up and breathes in through the nose, his neck tensed as he's tilted forward to try to see himself as a whole. He'd need a mirror to confront himself and wonder while looking himself straight in the eyes, 'Are you sure of what you are doing?'

John Watson isn't sure.

But John Watson doesn't know everything.

And not knowing has never been an excuse to move back, according to John Watson.

He walks on the beige carpet to relax the muscles of his legs. Five minutes ago, Sherlock asked him to go settle down (five minutes which seem to be 23, as every time the impatience makes itself at ease in his brain like an impolite guest). He hesitates for a long time before deciding what to do with the door; he wonders if he should leave it open, closed, half-opened – a choice he eventually makes. There's no sound in the rest of the apartment except for the ceaseless banging noise which is driving him crazy.

It's far past midnight and the idea that a neighbor is tinkering or moving furniture proves that good manners definitely left the British island. He takes three steps to get closer to the wall separating 221 and stops in front of the closet which he now knows intimately.

Intimate.

The word gives him a shiver which makes him shake up to his fingers.

Soldier that he was, he frowns, keeping silent his own feelings while he by-passes the cupboard to stick his ear to the wall papered with green. The noise is louder. He closes his eyes, tries to know where it's coming from and begins to blink his eyelids in rhythm. One blow after another, in a repetitive pace. Beatings. A pulsation. A cardiac pulsation.

He moves back from the wall as if he has just been burned and finally realises that he's the author of the noise. It's simply his beating heart.

John quickly backtracks and returns to the bed on which he sits down again. Sherlock didn't give him precise orders, he just told him to go to settle down, which involves many things. It might involve getting undressed, very certainly, but John doesn't really want to do that. Not alone. Not without knowing if it's what his flatmate also wants. He doesn't have time to doubt any longer because the chink of the door gets bigger and finally reveals Sherlock.

In his left hand he holds a glass filled a bit with an amber liquid, and he barely has time to put it on the bedside table before John is stretching out his arm to take it.

"Just so you know, I can handle more scotch," he smiles, carrying the glass to his lips.

"Oh I know. But for what I'm planning to do to you, I don't want you anything but sober."

Sherlock continues his way to the end of the room. He catches his padded seat before pulling it up to the bed, in front of John. He sits down and both men are finally facing each other.

"It looks like you want to interrogate me, sat like that," the ex-soldier laughs pointlessly.

"Don't worry, we'll question Steele in a few hours."

"You know what I'm dreaming of? That we enter the interrogation room and that we find him trembling, sweaty, and that it's obvious that it's him who shot Sherrer."

"That would be incredibly too simple, but simplicity sometimes has its advantages."

Sherlock crosses his legs, his elbows on the armrests. He watches John drinking with attention, without speaking. It's a bit strange that they're facing each other this way. Their legs are very close, it's enough that one of them hardly moves so that they'll touch. John's the first one who dares to make a movement, leaning to put his empty cup on the bedside table before sitting back in place.

There.

Here they are.

They're looking at each other and if John has a shy but false smile which he brings out without really knowing why, Sherlock seems perfectly concentrated, as if he has done this all his life. John doesn't really know if he should be reassured or not.

"What is your safeword?" asks Sherlock.

"Champagne," answers John with a certain disdain. As if he could forget it...

The detective nods his head once and puts his fingers one against the other in a posture typically Holmes. They say nothing more but this silence here, the one that they are living in, which has a particular sweetness; there is a heat in it which John's questions seem to find their answers.

"Remove your shirt," openly starts Sherlock, and this time John knows that they eventually jumped into a void.

John dims his eyes for the first time and looks at his sleeves raised by Sherlock from the dishes they eventually forgot. He doesn't have many excuses to hide his body anymore. But is it really necessary to continue to fool himself?

Slowly, gesture after gesture, he removes his buttons, revealing his white tank top which he dares to wear only when winter beats down on London. He really has no problem undressing in front of someone. He went through enough medical examinations in his life and people have already inspected him from all angles. But shall we put him in the most sophisticated MRI in the world, open his skull and inspect his brain, drain him of the necessary quantity of blood so that we may know all of his composition - even then nothing will ever be as true and significant as Sherlock Holmes's judgment.

He removes his second sleeve and drops his shirt. He doesn't have time to ask to his flatmate what he's supposed to do next, because Sherlock pushes back the seat from which he has gotten off and kneels down. He spreads the doctor's hands with his own and comes between his legs, his back straight, his face slightly raised to keep looking at him. This reversal of situation has something moving and the simple idea that from now on it is Sherlock's neck which will bend to see his flatmate makes John smile.

"Your tank top now."

He has the voice so soft that it is like a cotton cave where John could hide entirely. The blond-haired man puts his fingers on the bottom of the top; the right hand on the left side and conversely, before he begins to raise it, centimetre after centimetre, heartbeat after heartbeat. He slows down instinctively when the tank top passes in front of his face but the position is unpleasant and he cannot let Sherlock observe him without seeing him in return. Then, he removes it and sends it along with his shirt in a barely perceptible noise.

Sherlock is looking at him now and nothing has ever been so penetrating, not even a .12 gauge slug. And John is very self-aware on that matter.

Sherlock, on his knees in front of him, doesn't close his eyes once. They inspect every centimeter of John's skin, the hair on his chest, the scars, of course, but also all the offenses which have no marks but which seem to teem under the epidermis, aged by inevitable years. He still has his hands on the doctor's thighs but his forefingers aren't touching him. They are raised, as if irresistibly attracted by the chest which came to light. He's preventing himself from touching him, that's easy enough for John to tell.

For the doctor, it's not a problem to imagine Sherlock's chest. White, spotless, perfect undoubtedly. In comparison, his has to look like Verdun after the trench warfare. Seated and slightly slumped like this, the discreet paunch he's been trying to get rid of for years is a bit amplified. He sits up straight, pushed by a pride which has airs of survival instinct.

"The appendicitis," comments Sherlock, the hand a few centimeters away from the scar on the right side of the doctor, now that he dared to get up.

"I was 14. Got stomach aches one Saturday evening. Rather banal," he smiles in return, raising a shoulder.

Sherlock hardly smiles before continuing on with his very accurate inspection. He has an incredible gaze, clearer than ever, and it's those eyes that John can't leave. The detective's hand gets up a bit higher, on the left side near the ribs he's guessing to roll under skin that is traveled by delicate shivers. This time he examines a finer scar and his eyebrows frown slightly:

"A stab?"

"Ah, yeah," answers John, sadly amused by this stupid memory. "In training we had to learn to defend ourselves against an attack with a blade. There was this guy from Yorkshire, erh, James Pilton, I think, who had to play the aggressor. He was terrorised by the idea of really hurting me. I had to push him so that he agreed to participate. I wanted to play the wise guy by pretending I didn't know when he was going to attack but he actually surprised me. I flunked my defense and his weapon slipped. Fortunately, he wasn't holding it firmly enough to hurt me, but it was enough for me to be the laughing stock of the camp..."

Sherlock has a frank smile (because it's obvious that he, too, laughs at the doctor's clumsiness) but he says nothing and straights up a bit more on his knees. He raises his face at the same time as his hand which, this time, is approaching what changed everything in John Watson's life.

The attack might be easier to forget if the scar wasn't so impressive. As it's often the case with M-16 cartridges, the bullet drilled straight through his body. It's always difficult to believe but the mark from where the projectile went out is much more voluminous than from where it entered. So, it's because John Watson turned his back on his aggressor for only one second that the biggest, most terrible scar is on his right collarbone. In this still pink and thick mark, there's an aftertaste of sand, the humming of Matthew's bloodstained prayers, the memory of death which rested a finger on him.

And maybe it's because Sherlock reads in his spirit (which would explain a lot) that he puts his hand on the scar which he cannot even cover as a whole. It's not specially cold or hot. It's there and it's already too much. That doesn't last for a long time; it seems Sherlock just wants to make sure that it well and truly exists before he moves closer to the armchair on which he takes his place again. Tilted forward, elbows pressed on his knees, he starts again:

"Undress entirely now."

He seals his eyes to the doctor's and John doesn't answer using words. He unbuttons his jeans, still seated, and contorts himself with difficulty to slide them off his legs. He takes advantage to remove his socks at the same time (no way he's keeping them, let's stay pragmatic, for Christ's sake). Dressed in nothing but goosebumps, he's now covered by Sherlock's gaze and by his grey boxers. The detective doesn't even blink and doesn't look down.

"Entirely," he repeats in a melodious voice.

John breathes in and slides his thumbs under the elastic. It's not more difficult than removing his tank top, finally. He contorts again and while he frees his half-erection, he has the reflex to raise his head and now, more than ever, Sherlock is looking at him straight in the eyes. He hangs on to it and gets rid of his underwear, which he forgets as soon as it touches the beige carpet, and puts his hands on the bed. There, he's naked while Sherlock is still dressed in his impeccable suit. He wonders how long the detective has been waiting for this situation.

They don't speak when Sherlock gets up from the armchair and soars onto the bed. That obliges John to move back, until he stretches out because Sherlock is now on all fours on top of him. He doesn't touch him, hands and knees pressed against the mattress. He's even advancing and John's wriggling to maintain the eye contact until he feels his feet leaving the carpet and his legs settling on the sheets that have already been warmed by his presence.

They're now stretched out across the bed and the air seems to split with all the heterosexual feelings that John Watson was able to keep in a corner of his head (or in any other part of his body) these last few months. It's easier, in a way, that Sherlock isn't looking at his crotch because his erection has gotten even harder since he took place over him. It remains to be seen if it'll definitively faint when Sherlock finally touches him.

Finally.

It sounds like a relief.

"Describe your scar to me, John," he asks and it's clear that he understood everything, one more time.

Of course John cannot answer. He simply doesn't know what to say. He hasn't looked at it directly since he left Afghanistan. It's not a matter of courage, it's a matter of "keep going". And to see it every day and to face it, it's not something that he can do. Because John Watson's worst enemy is on John Watson's body.

"Scary thing, isn't it? To be vulnerable, I mean. I guess it's what attracted me to you, since the beginning actually, the way you seem out of reach. Invincible," the doctor murmurs in return.

"It's what people think of me and it is why I scare them off, I suppose. It's both a gift and a curse, really. They think I'm emotionless. A cold-blooded freak. Already dead, almost."

But that's everything you're not, right? John wants to reply, but, of course, he can't. He can't possibly say all the things that are going through his mind right now.

The detective takes support on his left forearm, while his right hand settles on the offered breastbone. He presses without sweetness, seems to want to feel every beating of the doctor's heart at the source, then slides his hand down along the stomach, where he feels the fair hairs surrounding his navel caressing his palm. He doesn't stop his rhythm, still looking John in the eyes, who dares to only blink when his pupils are burning him. And if the doctor's teeth are closing with strength around his bottom lip, Sherlock completely seems to handle the situation.

To dominate it.

"Sh-Sherlock," John sighs, raising his head by reflex when he feels the hand of his flatmate settling on his cock.

"Look at me," he imposes in return, in a very quiet voice.

John noisily puts his head against the sheets and sighs without restraint. Sherlock's hand settles on his flatmate's skull and he caresses it with his thumb. The doctor tries to convince himself that this simple finger is the nail preventing him from raising his head, because he wants to raise it so badly, he wants to look at what Sherlock is doing to him and he wants so, so many things, he wants...

"Look at me, John." Sherlock repeats a bit more firmly. "Put your hands on my shoulders and do not leave them."

John's dandling his head, a vague movement which neither means yes or no, but he does as ordered and squeezes. It probably has to hurt Sherlock, but neither of them will complain about it.

It's a simple gesture, but Sherlock smiles and it's almost the most beautiful reward of the evening. He slightly stretches his right shoulder before surrounding John's cock with his fingers. With slow movements, he's discovering his member along the entire length until his thumb slides across the tip he's covering with all the precome he can find. Once, then twice, before all the fingers close around the hot and heavy glans. There's only the ragged breath of John which is invading the room, illuminated by a single bedside lamp for which he has so many contradictory feelings. He wants to turn it off, of course, because he's not used to seeing something when he's sleeping with somebody, but he also wants it so much stronger so that he can see the entirety of Sherlock's face. Now, John can only see his eyes, bright as spotlights which are burning his retinas while attracting him at the same time. Gosh, how John's feeling like a stupid mosquito right now.

He feels his heart beating harder than usual and it's unpleasant, the vibrations seem to go back up in his throat and to give him trouble swallowing. He's thinking so much about what he wants to control that he forgets what feeling is like. And bloody hell, it's not every day that Sherlock Holmes is touching his cock devotedly.

"Wait."

He doesn't use the safeword, because it's not a Stop, but he needs time. He breathes in, as profoundly as possible and closes his eyes. His fingers are tightening their grip around Sherlock's fine shoulders until he feels his bones. In his head, there are the frank words of Clara, the bruises on his sister's face, the voice of Major Sholto entrusting him with the trip to Marjah along with the new recruits, the confident gaze of Lestrade, and it's piling up, pressing, agglutinating. They represent, as hundreds of other things and people, thousands of grains which are composing these quicksands on which he's been building up his life for so many years, and it's sucking up everything he is. And God, he's suffocating.

Through his closed eyelids, he imposes a darkness in which he's alone and there's nothing else other than the noise of his own breath. It's harder than any military training, but for nothing more than one second he allows himself to close the door on everything that makes him be that late depressive captain, doctor in a fit of pique, swamped son and discouraged brother whom he has always, bloody hell, always been.

There. Now, there's only him. And another person. Thanks to this other person. He opens his eyes again and it's a soft murmur that escapes from Sherlock's smiling lips, which summarises what he really is:

"Oh, John..."

Sherlock slides his hand under the neck of the doctor, catches it and makes him raise his head without waiting. He holds him, forehead against forehead, disorderly breathing in front of his lips. So close together, their eyes squint, their breath gets heavier and terribly noisier. The hand which is jerking him off gets faster, more possessive. He doesn't even move his wrist, he just waves his elbow to amplify his movements. He seems to curl up over the body he's overhanging and John straightens his legs by reflex. They're sticking one to another as if the doctors' skin's trying to merge against the suit of the detective - on which John's hands are hanging on with a need close to desperation.

"Beautiful, beautiful. Oh, John," sighs Sherlock with a groan.

It's absurd, really, that Sherlock uses this word and John doesn't even know if he speaks about the way he lets go, or about him, or about something else. They're looking at each other without daring to blink (because everything comes back to their damned pride, as always), but John knows that he will not hold any longer, not like that, not while his flatmate moans and while his own stomach becomes ardent.

"Don't come, John, don't come yet. Do you hear me? You're doing so well, so well."

John wants to hold on, so much, to not show his flatmate he's been so fucking close to climax ever since Sherlock put his fingers on him, and that it's tiring up his muscles, clenching his teeth and making him lose his mind. That doesn't escape from Sherlock, who tightens his hand around the fair hair to make him tilt his head backward.

"That's it, good boy, you're holding on. And you know why, don't you?"

With John's head tilted this way, the eye contact broken and facing the ceiling, he feels the need to breathe heavier and heavier, everything to do as he is told...

"Because that's what I ordered you to do."

... Because that's what Sherlock ordered him to do.

The word yes is running through John's mind so much right now that he fears the moment it will eventually find a way out. But Sherlock just has to impose on him one last will before John forgets everything, without any concession:

"That's it. Come for me. Now."

There are a few seconds where his body seems to melt against the sheets, where his thoughts are as tangible as the surrounding air. John gives a small cry while he comes, for what feels like forever, in uncontrolled knocks of hips. There's a wave of words invading his mouth, shivering at the end of his tongue, pushed by an orgasm which is stealing away all his strength - but he still has enough to retain them.

He's not looking at the ceiling anymore because he's closed his eyes, harder every time he felt a strip of come hitting his belly and chest. When he reopens them, he discovers Sherlock's face over his, red and covered with sweat. With the ambient heat, John is pretty sure wearing a suit must be unbearable.

Slowly, the detective's fingers release their possessive pressure around the fair hair, before resting the head against the sheets. They seem to both find the use of their bodies (incredibly broken, seeing the slowness of their movements) and Sherlock boldly wipes off his hand against the blanket before sitting down without a lot of grace near the head-board, which bangs one more time against the wall.

It's only now that John realises this, but even if their pelvis hadn't touch, they had moved so hard on the mattress that they had made a terrible noise with the swaying head-board. The annoying closeness of the neighbors, typical of London, will certainly not forget to remind them of this night at the first opportunity, it's certain.

John straightens up, pulls a face when he feels his back cracking, and catches his tank top off the ground to wipe on his stomach to clean himself briefly.

"Can I take the bathroom?" he asks with a hoarse voice.

He quickly coughs and Sherlock just nods once, what's enough for him. He slides awkwardly into his boxers, still trying to hide himself, but Sherlock, seated with his back supported by the wooden head-board, is looking at an indistinct point at the bottom of the room. It's very strange to think about, but it doesn't seem to the doctor that his flatmate touched himself. Yet he still looks like he has just been through an orgasm. Maybe John's was so powerful that it was enough for the detective. It's a bit presumptuous to think about that, but that doesn't leave the fair head.

About ten minutes later, John's back in Sherlock's bedroom, whom he finds folding his clothes. He thanks him half-heartedly and catches the pile before looking around them. The chamber which he entered seems like a new dimension. He was never a fan of science fiction, but compared to that, Doctor Who seems so underrated.

"Well, I'll go..."

"Sleep in your room," Sherlock finishes with no real surprise in his voice.

"It's better, right?"

"If you say so."

"And later on, we'll question Steele then."

"Five hours of sleep, that should be enough."

"Of course," John lies without any scruple.

They still look at each other for a few seconds before the doctor silently nods one last time before turning back.

Stretched out alone in his bed, hands supporting his neck, eyes anchored on the bluish ceiling in the night, John tries to find the word which can define his scar. Then, he tries to find the word to define what just happened.

John Watson doesn't sleep that night, after all.


Lestrade and both flatmates are finishing their coffee, which was the best decision to drink this morning. Steele waits for them in room n°7 and they're going to meet him quite slowly because, according to Lestrade, the financial engineer is innocent anyway and because the flatmates are much too tired to go faster. The DI leaves them to join the room behind the two-way mirror and they remove their jacket and coat before going into the wished room.

Seated on a formica chair, forehead covered with pearls of sweat as big as pinheads, Jared Steele trembles with each of his muscles, hands made clearer by a staggering stress, laying like dead starfishes on the plastic table.

Slowly, John and Sherlock turn their heads to the other and smile. It's official: at 10:04 am, at Scotland Yard's office, the Game is back on.

Chapter Text

Note: Hi! Did you know that I have a Tumblr? You should follow me, I mainly publish Johnlock stuff, art of my own (sometimes) and pictures of silly dogs. Basically everything my life is made of. Concerning the legal aspect of this chapter: not being British and even after hours of researches, I did my best in being as plausible as possible. Please note that this is a fanfiction - and that administration sometimes rhymes with nonsense. Anyway, enjoy your reading! *whispers in the background* SomeCoolName loves comments... Wow, did anyone else hear that?

Beta: The one and only Morwen Maranwe, who is now publishing her story The Burning Life you should read!


"Coffee?"

"No, thank you."

Jared Steele smiles pitifully, his hand stirring before resting on its colleague. The suspect has to be the size of Lestrade, although his shoulders are more squared and his belly a bit more developed. On top of his sweaty head, there is short salt-and-pepper hair, where the jet black definitively bows in front of the years. It's not difficult to see that the man is quite handsome; he has a certain charm with his natural suntanned skin and his eyes of a light brown that aren't seen very often in the South of England.

Everything in his gestures betrays unease in such an obvious way that it's fascinating. John's seated, too, and takes by mimicry the same position as the suspect, but his legs don't tremble. There's only the DI who's left standing; Sherlock's in front of Steele and he's looking straight in his eyes, a shade of a smile covering his lips. He hasn't said a word since they entered the room, and John has the sensation that his friend is taking his time. Why don't they put Steele in jail already...

"It wasn't easy to get you here, Mr. Steele," Greg begins, which automatically makes the suspect react.

"I was away due to business reasons. It was planned for a long time, I wasn't able to change the dates."

"You could have thought that we would want to question you. After all, you witnessed a murder."

"I know," he moans and that makes the detective smile harder.

In the silence made wet by Steele's pearls of sweat, there's only the noise of the creaking door when Sally brings in one cup which she puts on the table. She never makes coffees, it's a matter of principles, but if that allows her to glance at a suspect, she'll never complain about it. It's something that Sherlock would be capable of and John carefully avoids evoking the comparison by jumping on the coffee which he had the good idea to command, after his sleepless night.

"You all believe I'm guilty," the man spits when Sally's inquisitive eyes disappear behind the door. "I know that I shouldn't have left after the concert but I didn't kill this man. If I had really killed him, do you think that I would have told you the day I was coming back to London? And then, do you think that I would have returned?"

Gregory opens his lips, ready to answer, when Sherlock finally sketches a first gesture by tilting forward on the table where he puts his elbows before resting his long fingers one against the other in front of his face. He hardly squints, in a posture of extreme concentration which slightly pushes Steele back by reflex. John has already seen this position enough times to know that the Holmes genius is deducing.

"Did you know the victim?" pursues Gregory eventually, because Sherlock still doesn't seem ready to open his lips.

"Not at all! It was the first time I went to the Royal Hall festival."

"Do you like classical music then?" asks John.

"Not, not particularly."

"So why did you go to this concert?"

"To discover new things," he answers as if out of breath, his hands imprisoning his face, which is white as sheet.

John takes advantage of the fact that the suspect has closed his eyes to look at Lestrade, who raises his eyebrows at the same moment. It's always strange to see a man giving in so easily, especially when the man is about fifty years old. He has the attitude of a suspect whom they would have placed in custody for 48 hours after going at it for no more than half-an-hour. The day promises to be very long.

"Do you have a weapon, Mr. Steele?" asks Lestrade, leaning against the wall in front of them.

"Of course not."

"With a license, it's not illegal, you know."

"I know the law, thank you. And my answer is still no. I have no weapon, don't want to have a weapon, and I have nothing to do with this murder thing."

"Tell us about the evening, please."

The engineer nods once and bends slightly forward. He puts his hands on the table and mixes them with strength before beginning his story with a tremulous voice in spite of all the willingness he can put in.

"I arrived approximately twenty minutes before the show began. I was seated on the last row. I read my emails and looked a bit at the room. There was a woman and a young man in front of me. I think he had Down syndrome... anyway, he seemed very excited to be there. He explained to his mother where such or such musician was going to take place, it was impressive. But I didn't see the man who got shot, I was looking somewhere else. I saw at first the agitation, I heard somebody speaking about a doctor thing and I followed the stream of people without thinking, really. I understood only once I arrived on the street, when people who were seated in the front rows told us what happened. That's also why I didn't cancel my business trip, there were so many witnesses, in comparison I have nothing new to tell you concerning this affair."

There's a long silence following the engineer's words, where Lestrade is more down trodden than ever and where John's spirit seem touched by the Holmes grace, because the above-named is always in an unbearable lethargy:

"And what did you do during the interlude?" he asks, and if that makes Steele's eyes lower at least that makes those of Sherlock turn to him.

The detective smiles for one second. His face is illuminated by pride that echoes with strength to John's rib cage.

"... I want to see my lawyer," concludes Steele, apparently exhausted, before getting up.

"Steele, it's in your interest to tell us everything. Let me give you a piece of advice: I'm going to have to place you under custody if you ask for your lawyer and that will be recorded in your police record," explains Lestrade, decomposing every word to be sure the engineer understands the stakes in such a decision.

"I will say nothing more."

"First, you're going to sit down."

And this time the three heads turn to the only one who hasn't uttered a sound yet. Sherlock, still static, smiles at Steele, whom he harpoons with his look. It only takes a few seconds so that his illegible irises are enough to make the suspect give in and sit back without saying a word.

"You really thought it could end well?"

Steele tightens and all the colour he has gotten back in his face is fading already. Oh, John hates these moments here - and they arrive at every case - it's like he's going through jet lag, as if Sherlock is in another time zone, because he understands everything in advance while John waits, slow on the uptake, to perceive only an inch of the truth. It reminds him of his childhood, when the Battermore in front of his house had a video-recorder while his parents didn't even want to emit the possibility of buying one. He clenches his teeth, looks more at Sherlock than at Steele (because it's clear that the information is going to arrive from his friend) and keeps his fists on his knees under the table.

"Funny idea, to organise that at a concert, especially during the interlude. But you had to cancel it, right? I don't see how you would have been able to continue: Jared Steele, nice to meet you, you saw the horn player's brain, then?"

The engineer looks down while his teeth bite his lips. He's unmasked, it's obvious, but from what? John may recall the last twenty minutes in his mind, but he understands strictly nothing. He raises his small snub nose towards the DI but Lestrade shares the same completely skeptical expression, making it clear that it's not really possible to count on his help.

"Good, you understand. Can I go now?" Steele grumbles, looking at the door as if he's looking at a lifeboat in the middle of a storm.

"Understand what? Sherlock, would you have the kindness to explain yourself?" Gregory is obliged to ask one more time, bringing the detective out of his thoughts because he still doesn't understand that the global nature of what the detective deducts is absolutely not perceptible for human beings.

Sherlock nods his head once and turns toward his flatmate, to whom he's sending a delighted smile.

"Mr. Steele is Sheri Walsh's lover. He was looking at her when Sherrer got shot. She quarreled with her sister during the interlude because she planned to present him to her, but in light of their altercation, which he witnessed, he thought it wiser to postpone the meeting. It's not new things Mr. Steele wanted to discover but his sister-in-law. If we forget the fact that she was hitting on you when you interrogated her, John, it's a very romantic story which we have there."

John has to smile, which he ends up hiding by stretching his jaw, because he has two pairs of eyes on him-other than the crystalline ones-that are looking at him right now. But he will be damned if he will show that the feelings which are invading him right now, when Sherlock's addressing him and only him, as though there is nobody else on this damn Earth, might not be completely heterosexual. Steele tenses a bit when he hears that his girlfriend was flirting with another man - younger nevertheless, let's not forget that - but he still seems so eager to leave. Sherlock doesn't plan to stop there, though, because beyond the deduction, what he likes is to be the centre of attention.

"Then, you have a relation of coital order with a woman 25 years younger than you. You could be her father, Angie Walsh was right, but we are not here to judge the moral problems it could bring," he concludes by getting up."Lestrade, we're done here, it's not him who killed Sherrer. Now, John, shall we go home? A good nap is imperative, don't you think?"

John nods, opening his eyes wide, and leaps to his feet, completely excited at the idea of going back to bed in his sheets which must still be hot. They still haven't found the murderer and that leaves dramatic questions, but they let themselves shamelessly carry by the temporary shiver to have at least settled a mystery, so minor it is. Sherlock, standing next to the coat rack, gives him his jacket, talking to the suspect who is still seated:

"Moreover, Mr Steele, you should know it's more useful to call your lawyer when you have something to hide. To have a relationship with a younger woman is not illegal, you know."

"I know. I know the law," he answers while John's going through the door.

Sherlock stands still and looks at the engineer as if he's struck by the obvious. There are a few seconds of vague silence, where Lestrade slows down his movements and where John has the unpleasant feeling he's not going to dive into his bed after all, before Sherlock comes back in the room, a finger pointed towards Jared Steele:

"It's the second time you've said that; in what way does the law hold so much importance to you? Oh..." and suddenly, his hands open at the same rhythm as his eyes and his shoulders tighten, because Sherlock has the intuition of a bloodhound and he has found something for sure.

The DI sees it, in the same way as John, who gets closer to hear the deductions before the glittering stream of words comes out like a wave to hit Jared Steele:

"Your relationship with Sheri Walsh is illegal. She is 26 years old, it's not a problem of age. Is she a part of your family? No, impossible, with your skin and your physical features, which we find in Eastern Europe, and her freckles and fair skin typical of the North of Europe, you don't share blood - at least, not in the previous four generations, according to the shape of your metacarpi. Are you married? No, you're not wearing a wedding ring. Are you a close friend of the family? A friend of the father maybe? No, that wouldn't be illegal... Think, Sherlock, think... Sheri was ready to present you to her family, thus it's serious between you two. Is she pregnant? Impossible, I would have seen it. With the aim of a marriage, maybe? Why won't you be able to tell us that you're going to marry Sheri Walsh? Why did she present you as her soulmate while she was hitting on Jo... Oh!"

And while John's stomach still lives in the time difference, squeezing up at the sound of his name, his eyes jump from the DI to the detective, because they have, it seems, both understood. Sherlock closes his hands as if he has caught in his fists the truth and he's squeezing it for fear of revealing it, then it's Gregory who gives the deathblow:

"Mr Steele, could I see your papers, please?"

The engineer doesn't react and doesn't even seem to breathe, while he brings out of his inside pocket an ID card, far from those British ones John knows by heart, which he aims at the policeman.

"You're from Kosovo?"

"Yes, Jared Steele is an assumed name, because British people have difficulty in pronouncing my name..."

Lestrade tightens his thumbs on the plasticized card, nearly sticks his nose on it and wrinkles his eyes, trying to decipher the real name of the engineer:

"Luljette Fetch... Fech..."

"It's pronounced Lulïet Fejzullakh," Steele corrects and he doesn't tremble any more, seems extremely tired and old, suddenly. The voice of Gregory has to resound, so that John finally understands:

"And may I see your visa?"

Steele has an enactment of a smile tinged with sadness, and while he approaches with languor the group of men, John has the naivety to believe for a few seconds that it's not a stupid story of papers. Sherlock and he aren't here for that and the situation is so inequitable that their voices are now stuffed by bitterness.

"I'd like for you to call my lawyer now, please."

"Steele, if you really don't have a valid visa to show me, I'll have to place you under custody," Lestrade warns.

"I will say nothing more and this time I mean it," he sighs in reply, out of strength.

The DI emits a stunned noise from his throat and takes out of his back pocket a pair of handcuffs which he puts on Steele's wrists. Sherlock and John let the cop guide the man through the offices. While the doctor gets ready to suggest to his flatmate to go back home, it's the vision of a Milky Way of freckles which tears him apart.

"Jared?"

Sheri Walsh exceeds the office where she was installed and approaches the small group in fast steps before she discovers the wrists surrounded with metal.

"What are you doing? Where are you taking him? Jared, what's going on? You can't possibly think he killed this musician, right?"

"Sheri, go back home, okay? Don't take care of that," answers the engineer very calmly, covering her with a gaze as soft as a summer night.

"Take off his handcuffs," orders the young woman without daring to look with her eyes bulged by the fear at the DI who answers:

"You should listen to your friend and leave, now."

"But he did not kill him!"

"Mr Steele is placed under custody until his situation grows clearer. He's also suspected of planning a sham marriage which, just a friendly reminder, is liable for the accomplice to serve five years of detention and pay a 150 000£ fine," Lestrade prevents himself from screaming to the woman he wants to see leaving as quickly as possible, to not have to place her behind bars.

"Go back home and don't worry about me," concludes Jared simply, hands getting up by reflex to touch her, but the metallic noise of the chains is disgusting enough to make him abort his gesture.

"Jared, no, you can't..."

But Gregory doesn't wait any longer and holds the engineer's arm with strength to take him up to a cell. Sheri gets ready to follow them, breath short and tears at the edge of her heart, and John almost jumps up on her shoulders to prevent her from going any farther.

"Jared!" she shouts through the huge open-space to be sure that everybody hears her. "Jared I'm going to take you out of here and we'll get married, I swear! You hear me? I swear!"

"Sherlock, help me," John murmurs over his shoulder, and the detective catches the woman's left arm to take them outside.

They're surrounding her with a merciless tenderness and they take her far away from the eager gaze of representative people of a law they couldn't think more absurd. She's keeping her lips closed to refrain herself from roaring, and her cheeks are now tracked by tears that she wants the most murmuring possible. It's Sherlock who drags them up to the backstairs and, even if it smells like gasoline because it leads onto the parking lot, at least they aren't at risk of being seen by someone. Their hands release her before she sits down on a step where she curls up to hide her face of an impertinent sadness for a girl of her age. There are a few seconds of silence, heavy as their breaths, before a first shapeless lamentation urges John to kneel down in front of her, his hand finding the natural way back towards the shoulder he covers with all his kindness.

"Sheri, Inspector Lestrade gave you another chance, take it. You heard him, you're risking a lot if it's proved that this marriage is... well, is not a marriage of love."

"I'm not going to leave him. Did you speak to him? Do you at least know where he lived, what he went through to get to the point where he's at today?" she moans, looking at them one after the other.

They briefly shake their heads while she wipes her tears with dignity and a trembling hand and breathes to take back her calm.

"I don't understand, how can he not have a visa?" John stammers, looking at Sheri then at Sherlock who shakes his head to say he doesn't have the slightest idea.

"He left his country when he was 17 years old to follow his studies in London. He's been living here ever since by making regular visa applications which he always, always has. And five years ago, a jerk from the immigration office behind his fucking desk decided that he wouldn't give him a new visa. It happens, you know; there's no history there, it's not because the person is living in the UK for 3 months or 10 years that it changes something, and if a fucking clerk decides not to renew a visa, you can't do anything about it. Jared panicked and if MB Bank had learnt that he didn't have the right to work here anymore, he would have been fired and sent back to his country..."

"Thus, he falsified his visa," concludes the detective, apparently highly irritated to not have understood it before.

"Yes. Since then, he falsifies his visa every year and he's terrified at the idea of being discovered. He can't make any more visa applications, his only solution to stay here is to get married... To me."

"Then you better go back to your place and call his lawyer," advises Sherlock, already moving back to show her the stairs.

She nods with energy and gets up, puts the handle of her bag back on her shoulder, and thanks John for his consideration with a discreet smile. She gets ready to come down when she looks at them, and it's with this simple gesture that she makes them an oath:

"I can't leave him, do you understand? I love him. Maybe not as others think, but I love him enough to fight for him."

Against the concrete, her small heels click and click, in the stunning echo of the stairwell. Sherlock breaths deeply in and, now that they're alone. John sits down on the place where Walsh was and does the same until they are stuck shoulder against shoulder. They remain silent for a long time, looking at the grey wall, before John sighs, absolutely exhausted:

"Well, I did not see that coming... That settles the mystery of Sheri Walsh's lie. It's good, for lack of arresting real criminals, we destroy lives of people who hurt nobody."

"John..."

"No, no, let's talk about it, because we're not moving forward. We questioned all the suspects established by the ballistics, right?"

"Yes."

"Thus, we are in deep shit."

"It's a bit vulgar, but essentially, yes."

The doctor breathes in and bends forward, pressing his elbows on his knees.

"Could the ballistics be wrong?"

"Impossible, the bullet did touch the back of Sherrer's skull, you saw it for yourself."

"What's the plan, then?"

"Two things: in the first place, I'm going to see Benjamin Cox again. Remember what Steele said, Benjamin knew everything about the orchestra. If I see him without his mother, I'll manage to make him admit what he knows."

"And you'll thank him by precipitating a heart attack?"

Sherlock raises an eyebrow, John smiles.

"Sorry. And the second thing?"

"I believe it's time for me to call my dear old brother."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi! Sorry it's been so long since my last update but here's chapter 16 - tadah! Many, many thanks for the last kudos and subscribers (is that really a word?) and if you want to leave a comment after your reading, you'll make me the happiest girl in the neighbourhood
I just want to add that my wonderful beta Morwen Maranwe helped me so much, once again, and the case!fic gains so much in credibility thanks to her. Lots of love, dear Morwen, and thank you so much you're an angel.


With his forehead resting against the glass of the window of his bedroom, John's lips form a half-smile. It's a gesture he wouldn't have been able to do a few weeks ago (unless he wanted to freeze his skin) and the simple fact that he can do so now, proves that time flies away too fast. It's as if January were only yesterday, as if the smell of Mrs. Hudson's curry turkey is still invading the ground floor. But the melted snow and the merciless temperatures have well and truly left the capital, and those are fine jackets and short skirts which the doctor sees from the Baker Street window. It's worse, because it proves that it has been ages since he spoke to Harry.

It's a matter of pride of course, but when his thumb slides on the screen of his mobile, it's of the hospital room that he thinks about and the way Clara made him understand that she, too, could take care of the elder Watson. And, really, John always knew that. But years to undergo the pressure to be the right man for the job are enough to make the simplest of Londoners freak out at the idea of admitting that he would accept a little of support from time to time.

He lowers his small snub nose, crushes his chin against his light grey jumper, and looks at the telephone which he holds only halfway out of his pants pocket. It would be enough to send a text to show to his sister that he hasn't forgotten her, with excuses in halftone, but it's easier said than done. With a quick movement, he throws the mobile on his bed and comes down to join Sherlock and their guest.

Despite it inevitably happening, even if it is the first time Sherlock has invited a witness from a case back to their home, that doesn't prevent John from almost choking when he sees the state of the living room.

"Sherlock, what..."

The detective and Benjamin Cox, their bodies turned to the wall, are standing in front of the sofa which they have covered with papers and photos of all kinds, interconnected by red and blue wires. It seems there is a lack of space on the sofa, and the coffee table is covered under piles of clippings. And John could make an effort not to shout - really, he could - if the rest of the room was not a visual cacophony of falling cardboard, cut papers and clothes thrown like simple rags on the ground.

"...What the hell?"

"Hello Doctor." Benjamin smiles and waves, which brings down the clipping that he was holding between his thick fingers.

John's eyes roll with despondency.

"We are working, John."

"Okay, very well, and I guess that bringing out all these ties was absolutely essential?"

"We needed something to represent the musicians," indicates Sherlock, vaguely waving a hand over his shoulder, eyes fixed on the wall.

The doctor approaches with his eyebrows furrowed and discovers piled videotaped representing the back-scene of the Royal Hall festival sitting in the center of the living-room. Seven small silhouettes cut from cardboard are put there, on which are glued the photos of the witness's faces. The doctor catches Anna Sanchez's copy when Sherlock explains:

"Benjamin had difficulty understanding the principles of my Mind Palace, so we created a reproduction of the room on the evening of the murder."

"And in your Mind Palace there are also videotapes constituting the back-stage?" asks John, an amazed smile on his lips.

Sherlock doesn't answer, but frowns his nose in an absolutely incomprehensible grimace, while Benjamin kneels down near the model improvised to point at the cut silhouette on which the head of Sherrer was glued.

"Sherlock says that s-somewhere in my brain there is a memory of what happened w-when Mr. Sherrer was killed."

"Well, we're going to try to reach it slowly, aren't we, Sherlock?" John warns by raising his eyebrows, but that doesn't make the detective react. Instead he's climbing on the sofa to put his face in front of papers hung higher than the rest of them.

"Benjamin, how many times did you attend the performances of the orchestra?"

"Seven t-times," he answers, putting the silhouettes back in place minutely.

"Are those my ties?" John suddenly realises, catching one.

"Can you put b-back the clarinetist p-please?"

"Sherlock, how were you able to come and take my ties while I was in my room?"

"Ask Benjamin, it is he who picked them up. And was Sherrer present during those seven performances?" pursues the detective, without deigning to look at both men on all fours behind him.

"At f-five, yes. Moreover f-five performances contained p-pieces of Liszt."

"You came in my room?" John asks Benjamin, his eyes wide open of surprise.

"And during these f-five performances, he played the P-Préludes," pursues the witness, who doesn't even seem to hear the doctor asking him questions.

Sherlock, standing on the sofa, takes his telephone out of his pocket. He strums on it before reading aloud his discoveries:

"Sherrer was a real connoisseur of Liszt. On the last thirty performances he gave, 87 % of them contained his airs... Benjamin!" the detective suddenly exclaims, turning around all at once and making the young man jump. "When we met for the first time in Lestrade's office, you spoke about Sherrer. You said that he was a very good musician. A very good musician doesn't need a score, right?"

"Which means t-that," Benjamin begins to deduce, but he is stopped by Sherlock coming down from the sofa, approaching the improvised model with large steps.

He takes a small iron ruler out from the inside pocket of his jacket and practically lies down on the ground to put his eyes at the same level as Sherrer's figurine. Benjamin's breath is heavy, and although that automatically makes the doctor's eyes raise, the young man doesn't seem in danger from that. He's fixing the false scene with a look of unfeigned admiration, and John can't blame him for that.

"Which means that Sherrer wasn't looking at his score when he was killed. He was looking at the conductor."

The small ruler which Sherlock presses near the musician gets up to the back-scene. On the last rows, the figurines of Steele and Sanchez are pushed away by two flicks.

"According to the angle of incidence of the bullet, neither Sanchez nor Steele would have been able to hit Sherrer's skull, because he had his head turned up."

"Brilliant," answer the two other men with one voice, fixing the detective with a proud smile on his lips.

"Will you make us some tea, John?"

The doctor nods once and gets back on his feet, still too bewildered to dare to open his mouth. In the nameless mess which invades the kitchen, he loses his breath and patience one more time. He quickly fills the kettle he starts up and turns around towards the table that he tidies up briefly in search of the box of spiced tea they used the day before. Between the typewriter which is missing the vowels, the nut shells, and the photos of Sherrer's open skull, he recognises the black tip of an object which he hasn't seen for a long time.

"Sherlock," he calls up, coming back to the living-room to show the object he's holding in his right hand. "How many times do I have to tell you not to put your riding-crop on the table where I eat breakfast?"

"Ah, you g-go horse-riding?" asks Benjamin.

"Not at all, I use it for particular experiments, let's say..."

"Sherlock."

"... I was thus saying, before John interrupted me, I use it for my work experiments. It has already helped me for quite a lot of cases."

"Your hobbies are q-quite p-particular."

"Well, it seems that everybody agrees in saying that the things I like are either unethical, illegal, addictive, or wear hideous jumpers. Even if the last two can easily be mistaken. And you can put back the crop, John - unless you like the contact of the leather in your hand?"

The blue crystalline eyes raise from the leather prison of the doctors' fingers up to his face, and it's as if John burned himself. He jumps, realising the ambiguity of his gesture, and puts the crop up awkwardly on the shelf to his left. He puts it up so badly, though, that it brings down the ashtray he knows is always filled, and he doesn't touch it anymore. Then he disappears into the kitchen where the kettle is finally ready. He takes out three cups, some sugar and milk, also, as well as three teaspoons and paper towels; in brief, so many useless accessories which only have the purpose of producing the maximum amount of noise to put up a front. It's with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker that he infuses the tea ball in each of the cups, eyes scrutinising the water coloring to a dark brown. When he returns to the lounge, the handles of the three cups hanging awkwardly at the end of his fingers, he finds Sherlock and Benjamin still sitting on the floor.

"Somebody is lying to us, it is undeniable."

"It remains to be seen who," murmurs the blond, serving them.

"Thank you, John, for this highly relevant remark. Well, let's us start again. The weapon is a Sig Sauer, 9mm pistol. It is a common weapon which we find with any artilleryman. Nevertheless the precision of the shooting proves that we're not dealing with an average citizen. The shooter was able to settle the silencer on his weapon very well before the concert and hide it in a handbag or under a jacket."

"But w-we w-would have heard it all the s-same?"

"No, with the silencer and the use of a subsonic bullet, combined with the moment the shooter fired - in full apotheosis - even the person seated next to him would have heard nothing."

"Angie Walsh," says John suddenly, eyes fixed to the small figurine.

Sherlock raises his head and says nothing: it's a highway for John's deductions and he's not going to complain about it.

"Remember, she's the one who put us on Jared Steele's track by pointing out the fact that her sister was hitting on m... was looking at me. That was enough to raise doubts. Maybe she knew Steele was going to marry her sister to make his citizenship application. She wanted to save time."

"Because you think that she would have been able to kill Sherrer?"

"Why not? It's obviously not Sheri, she's already preparing a sham marriage; she wouldn't have done something that would have put the attention on her. And then you said it yourself: Jennings wouldn't do anything that would prevent him from seeing his son. The two other people who would have been able to fire, otherwise, are..." but John doesn't finish his sentence because he just has to look right in front of him to point to one of the potential suspects.

"It's a b-bit offending," sighs Benjamin.

"Thus, Benjamin would be the killer?" asks Sherlock with an amused smile on his lips.

"I'm just saying that..." John begins but he doesn't have time to finish his sentence because his flatmate takes a gun out of his inside pocket, which he then puts in the middle of the musicians.

That makes Benjamin jump up, and even if it doesn't make the doctor blink, he can't help but see the deep and painful inhalation of the younger man. Benjamin moves back awkwardly, eyes bulging with fear at seeing a real weapon, and John knows what that means: it's the look of the first time.

"I believe you have the proof that Benjamin couldn't be the one who brought out a weapon."

"For God's sake, Sherlock," John grumbles, ready to get up to verify Benjamin's pulse, but the witness raises his hands to reassure him, his breaths panting nevertheless.

"It's okay, it's o-okay..."

"It's not loaded, you know," specifies Sherlock, opening the chamber which he puts under Cox's nose.

"Stop that," the doctor sighs, catching the weapon and hiding it under the pillow of his armchair behind him. "And it's my weapon. When did you both come into my room?"

"Useless detail," concludes Sherlock with a wave of a hand before getting up.

Benjamin does the same, dusting the bottoms of his jeans before turning his watch on his thick wrist. He sighs, obviously saddened to see that the day passed so fast, and apologises to both flatmates by explaining that his mother's waiting for him to have dinner. He puts on his jacket, which he put on the coat hook behind the door, and takes out a DVD from his shoulder bag which he hands to Sherlock.

"There, it's the m-movie I told you about."

"The Man Who Knew Too Much," the detective reads out loud, his eyebrows furrowed.

"It's a m-movie in which a man is s-shot at during a concert. Maybe t-that that will help you out with the c-case."

"It is extremely naïve of you, but I will take a look at it."

Benjamin smiles and comes to catch the detective's free hand, which he shakes with energy before coming to greet the doctor. John takes him back to the staircase and returns to the lounge, his heart always catching at the vision of this room which must be mentioned in the dictionary under the definition of the word Chaos.

"Well. Should we clean up everything, a bit?" he proposes, passing an already tired hand over his face.

"Or you could order Chinese and we could watch the movie, on the sofa."

It's because the thought of cracking his back by dint of bending to tidy up all the pieces of scattered cardboards, clipping, and ties isn't really exciting that John answers unscrupulously:

"Deal."


Curtains closed, sitting on the sofa, his body hidden under a thick blanket which he brought out of his bedroom, John stretches his feet out a bit more on the coffee table. He and Sherlock have moved the small television closer, and, even if the detective hasn't yet touched the plate John ordered for him, at least the doctor is finishing his lemon beef with a fork. It would be classier, definitely, to use chopsticks, but even if he has already tried to impress Sherlock, he's incapable of understanding how a human being is supposed to feed himself with two pieces of wood. It's better not to mention this subject again.

They are in the middle of the movie, and after some time the little jolts as they watch eventually let them slide a little farther together until their shoulders make contact and their knees touch insistently. Sherlock bends from time to time to pick John's small tomatoes, which takes offence no more this kind of plunder. When James Stewart enters the Royal Albert Hall on the small screen, both roommates share a smile.

"This scene is legendary," comments John, eyes fixed on the screen.

"Why?"

"What do you mean 'why'? It's the scene, it's the..." he puts his fork down and turns his face to his flatmate's, aghast. "You've never seen The Man Who Knew Too Much? You do know Hitchcock, right?"

"Should I?" asks Sherlock, the corner of his nostril raised, as if slightly disgusted.

"You know, your lack of patriotism is not far from causing me internal bleeding, sometimes."

"I hate it when you are melodramatic."

John has a bright smile, slightly shaking his head while he takes his fork back in his hand to finish his plate. In an almost religious silence, they're looking at the scene where Jo McKenna, motionless, follows the killer's shadow with her eyes, her husband running in search of the good box. The doctor can't help himself, he has to glance at his flatmate and the way the crystalline eyes are slightly bulging. How the eyelids aren't blinking once proves that the Hitchcock tension affects Sherlock Holmes just like any human being. On the blanket he pulled up to his legs, Sherlock rests his right hand, and John has the very primitive desire to wrap it in his.

One second. Only one second. But still.

John watches the long fingers squeezing the dark blue blanket in rhythm with Herrmann's music. Sherlock's joints are getting whiter under the effort and if he were able to put his hand on John's cock, the doctor could at least put his hand over his. But what Sherlock did to him in the evening after the party was sexual, undoubtedly. To take him by the hand, John isn't sure what that would mean.

"That's what we need."

"Eh?" answers John, raising his head before Sherlock finishes his sentence.

"The mother was right since the beginning, concerning the shooter."

"Thus, what, are you saying we need a woman here?" the doctor smiles, raising an eyebrow.

"We have one right below, let's take advantage of it: MRS. HUDSON! MRS. HUDSON, WHO KILLED PHILLIP SHERRER?" he roars all at once.

No answer. Sherlock fixes his wrinkled eyes on the closed door as if he could possibly convince it to open itself, but God has still enough courage to stand up to the detective and doesn't give him access to new supernatural powers. The brown-haired man curses out loud, highly disappointed. John feels obliged to reassure him:

"She can't hear you from here."

"And do you believe she heard us the last time?"

Sherlock turns his head to look at his flatmate, who remains motionless, lips half-opened for a few seconds to try to find an answer. It is obvious that they are going to speak about that evening, first because it's physically impossible to hold on any longer and also because the memory of their bodies so close to each other doesn't give them respite.

"I don't think so. She would have given us the look, otherwise."

Sherlock has a small smile on his face, as if to say Touché. They switched off all the lights, until they are only enlightened by the screen of the small television, and while Sherlock's fist is put against the prominence of his cheekbone, John sees in this scene printed in chiaroscuro a sufficient reason to speak:

"Could we..."

He seals his lips again, as if they panicked at the idea of being separated. Sherlock looks at him, silent, motionless; he will not precipitate things. It belongs to John to make the first step.

"Could we speak about it?"

The detective lowers his left hand and turns on the sofa to face his flatmate, before answering:

"Of course."

"Good. Then, will we... do that again?"

"If it is what we both want."

They're judging each other from the ends of their eyelashes, they aren't using their mouths, to sound out the other one. John believes they're evolving in a very official silence but it's because he doesn't hear James Stewart's voice any more.

"I think that's what we want both."

"I think we can say that, yes," confirms Sherlock with a nod. "Well, now that it is decided," and without further delay, the detective slides from his part of the sofa to John's lap.

He locks the doctor's hips with his thighs and pulls the dark blanket around their bodies. In between his long musician's fingers he catches some of the blond hairs to help John to quit looking at their hips pressed close together.

"Remember John: look at me."

The doctor swallows and nods, his careless tongue coming out of his mouth to lick his own lips. Sherlock's second hand goes up to the badly shaved cheek which he caresses diligently, and the contact is sufficient enough to provoke in John a need to moan that he retains with a lot of pride. With his head pulled back, he rests his neck against the back of the sofa and the simple fact of not having to support his own head gives him the stupid impression that he's beginning to let go.

But it's not stupid, of course. It's exactly what Sherlock wants.

"Safeword?"

"Are you going to ask me for it, every time?" asks John, without any hostility in his voice.

"Of course. You know, John, what we do in these moments is to begin to open a door. It's nothing to open a door. Then, you can glance at the embrasure and, if what you see there pleases you, you can enter. The safeword is the certainty you can get out of it. Because what we do has a beginning and an end. It's a game. A mise en scène. Do you understand me?"

The fair head nods once but that doesn't seem to satisfy the detective who slides his hand along the face to pinch the chin, which obliges John to open his mouth.

"I asked you a question."

"Yes. Yes I understand," answers John, nodding.

Sherlock's pressure is less persistent while his thumb begins caressing the sensitive skin under the doctor's lower lip. He almost squints due to concentrating his look on the half-opened lips, and it's his eyes which John can't stop scrutinising.

"Good. Now, we are really going to talk. I am going to ask you several questions and you will answer them honestly. Do you understand, John? I forbid you to act rude and rough - and do not pull a face, you may laugh at my ego but yours can completely compete in terms of size."

"I understand," he answers in a half-smile.

"Can I handcuff you?"

"... Yes."

"Blindfold your eyes and, or, gag you?"

"If you cover my mouth, how will I be able to use my safeword?"

"I will give you something to hold. To release it will mean stop."

"Okay, then yes."

"On a scale from 1 to 5, how much do you estimate you want to test your tolerance to pain?"

"Ehm... three. I guess."

"At the stage of curiosity, in other words."

"... Yes."

"We banish straightaway any extreme act. No blood, no permanent marking."

"Yeah, been there, done that," confirms John with a light grimace, moving his shoulder to emphasise his words.

"Well, we are on the same wavelength. And on a scale from 1 to 5, how much do you consider yourself ready to answer to each and every order I give you?"

This time, the answer isn't immediate. John closes his lips as discreetly as possible to not show that he refrains from answering too fast. Sherlock still holds his face, and even if it's so hot he wants to take off his jumper and the purple shirt in front of him, John remains perfectly motionless. He answers with an awkward voice:

"Three."

"Liar," replies Sherlock without waiting.

"... Four."

"John," Sherlock mutters, tightening his hand around the badly shaved chin. This time, it's because of the grey look that the doctor confesses the number he wanted to keep silent for as long as possible.

Sherlock has a satisfied smile and while he half-opens his lips, ready to start again, his telephone vibrates awkwardly against an empty cup of tea. He sighs through the nose, apparently highly frustrated to have been stopped in such a promising path, and bends backward to catch the mobile. He imposes it between their faces to read the message received and, over the detective's shoulder, John's looking at the scrolling without of course commenting on the fact that the movie didn't help but at least it entertained them.

"Well, we shall continue this conversation later, but I am delighted to have the confirmation that you are at five," the detective suddenly decrees, getting up, and maybe it's John who transmits onto his friend, but it seemed he heard a hint of disappointment in his voice.

"Is something wrong?" asks John, eyebrows furrowed.

"Nothing important, but I have to go."

"Now?"

"Those are the ups and downs of the job," apologises Sherlock vaguely with a nod.

He catches his coat which he puts on without waiting and greets his flatmate before disappearing behind the front door. John sighs noisily and tidies up the room without really believing that it would change something, before grabbing his blanket which he takes back to his bedroom.

He doesn't fall asleep easily that evening because in his brain arises an indecent number of questions. He has to turn around for the hundredth time between his warm sheets before finally daring to bring out its mobile:

How you could be sure that I would answer five?

The answer isn't immediate, it's by reflex that he caresses the blueish screen.

Oh, John, I was well placed to know that. SH

The doctor raises his eyebrows and contemplates the keyboard which is waiting for the demonstration of a repartee he knows very weakly, and as if Sherlock knows what is going on in the small chamber of the second floor, he pursues:

Nobody gets hard like that at the sound of an order without already being at five. SH

And that makes John's teeth grind. He drops his head on his thick pillow, letting out a long and pointlessly noisy sigh. In front of him, there's the old cracked ceiling. In his hand, there's the mobile. He puts it in front of his face before answering:

I would have liked for you to stay, Sherlock Holmes.

I know. SH

And now, my blanket smells like you.

I also know that. SH

Oh, okay, I understand. You were not cold at all. You just wanted me to bring it so it would end this way. You turned me on and you knew perfectly well that you'd be obliged to leave.

I am impressed by your progress in deduction. SH

I say this with all the affection you're inspiring me: you're a bastard.

I will make it up to you. In the meantime sleep, John. You need some rest to face what's waiting for us. SH

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone! I hope you're all doing well. First, thank you for your last comments and kudos (wow 308, it's like 309 more that I ever thought I'd get). Today I'm presenting you chapter 17 made of, approximately, 98% of pure smut including a riding-crop (but no pain, yep, I managed to do so somehow), dirty talk and some praise kink. Well, in short: here comes the rating E! Don't forget to write a review if you like it, I'll be thrilled to know what you guys thought about it :) And of course, I can't help but thanking the one and only, Morwen Maranwe, for being the best beta I could ever imagined.


For the last time, John looks at his watch; if he leaves now, he can pass by the newsdealer and grab something to eat for tonight. He leans on the folder which he's writing the last patient's information. If he doesn't manage to write faster, his right foot—which is already shaking itself—seems more than ready to leave without him. It's because Sherlock has told him that he had to first take care of another case which is the reason that they aren't running around every corner of London to find the shooter of the Royal Festival Hall anymore. Rather than staying in Baker Street, twiddling his thumbs (or using them for much less Catholic purposes) John has been coming to the clinic daily for the last two weeks.

It's almost eight o'clock and, hearing the night shift personnel walking in the corridor, he gets up and puts on his jacket. He hardly has time to put his hand on the latch before the door of his office opens wide.

"Ah, John, there you are. You didn't drop off your files at the reception desk yet, right?"

"Barrow," John creaks more than he smiles. "No, I was going to g..."

"Great. Seeing as you haven't finish your day, can you replace me for tonight's meeting? We need someone to plan next month's schedule."

"Eh? No, Barrow, I'm done for today. I'll just drop off my files and..."

"It's all good, it'll take you 30 minutes, one hour at most. My daughter has her dance recital and I totally forget."

"Singing recital," John corrects, sighing.

"Ah yeah, singing recital. Thus it's settled, you're replacing me, great, see you tomorrow then!"

It's with an excessively suntanned hand that Barrow greets the doctor and even if he shows five of his fingers in a completely equal way, John only sees the prominence of the forefinger and the middle finger mocking him. His jacket on, his left hand holding his Oyster card which he had already taken out, John's invaded by an oppressive need to catch up with his boss in the corridor.

"I won't do it, I already have plans for tonight."

"John, I'm just asking you to..."

"Bloody hell, Mark, I said no, just deal with it!" he exclaims, raising his bulging eyes to the ceiling.

The growing vein on the face of his boss is enough to make the doctor realise that he might have shouted a bit too loudly.

"Don't speak to me like that, I am your boss, Watson."

"Well, precisely, then act like one and face your responsibilities. See you tomorrow, good evening," concludes John in a last effort toward politeness. While he turns around, ready to put all of this behind him (including his files) and to finally return back home, it's Barrow's nasally voice that says the one thing that no one on this damn earth really wants to hear.

"Do you got your period or something?"

John stops and even the silence surrounding them seems to be scandalised by the nameless ineptitude that has just resounded. There really aren't one thousand possible choices: he can pass on, drop off his files and take the Victoria Line, hoping to find an empty seat. He can also stop, turn around and explain point by point why this sentence has as much legitimacy as a florist in an operating theatre and that it demonstrates only a deep and blatant lack of knowledge - and respect - of women and humanity. But of course, it's the third option John chooses while his shoes creak on the linoleum. He quickly approaches the most orange human being he has ever met and even if, in his mind, there's a forest of words to support his explanations, he simply raises up his fist and when he feels the nose of his boss cracking under his phalanxes, he thinks to himself that he undoubtedly managed to send his message.

"For Christ's sake, Watson!" Barrow bawls on the ground, his hand surrounding his nose, which is covered in blood. "You sick psycho! You're fired, do you hear me? Fired!"

"I quit," John corrects, throwing to his feet the file from which the paper clip breaks and let's fly away the hundreds of papers that he has filled for weeks.


In 221B's staircase, John's steps resound like the drums of the soldiers' first line advancing on the battlefield. He pushes the door they almost never use, the one which gives into the kitchen, and finds himself face to face with his flatmate, seated on the other side of the table, hands on the microscope where his right eye was still concentrated one second ago. Sherlock's wearing a dark blue suit from which the collar lapel is covered with a black velvet. He also wears a tie of the same blue, decorated with a multitude of hardly perceptible grey points and John raises his eyebrows in front of the nonsense of such a dichotomy between their clothes. Sherlock and he are facing each other without a word because John's breath is obscene enough to invade the room with all its unbearable presence. He sniffs, keeps at the bottom of his ardent throat all of the insults that the punch in the nose he gave to his superior inspired in him, and the lips of the detective just have to open so that he grumbles with a husky voice:

"Oh, come on."

"I didn't say a thing."

"I know what you're going to say," John answers, slamming the door behind him before beginning to pace up and down in front of the kitchen table.

Sherlock releases the microscope and moves back on his chair to watch the doctor gesturing in front of him, and he doesn't need more than ten seconds to understand:

"You got fired."

"I quit," John corrects again, raising a finger at the same time as his eyebrows.

"Why are your knuckles red?"

"I hit Barrow."

"Thus, you got fired," concludes Sherlock, his eye again pressed against the microscope.

That makes John choke in outraged laughter, and the fact that his flatmate doesn't even deign to look at him any more isn't helping. That makes him lose his mind, he who wants to roar since he left the clinic (which he retained in a very impressive way in the Tube), and now he doesn't see why he should hold back anymore.

"May I know what the hell this is about? Why are you dressed like that? And for the thousandth time - for God's sake - do not put your riding crop on the table where I eat, it's disgusting! You hit dead people with it!" he yells pointing at the crop, lying like a simple harmless feather in the middle of cups and scones brought by Mrs. Hudson.

"It is a new riding crop, I bought it this morning. And don't yell, John," the detective answers without making the effort to raise his head.

Like a kid whose whim is ignored (and as he knows that he has no tangible reason for getting mad in front of his flatmate anyway) John persists in his crisis and bends to catch the object of offense, but he's stopped by a dry voice:

"I forbid you to touch it."

His body tilted over the German newspapers from 1987 and the typewriter, John hangs his look of a terrible grey to the crystalline blue one

fixed on him. They seem to probe each other from the end of their lashes and without daring to blink their eyelids for a brief moment, they're waiting for the faux pas which will give away the other one.

"John," and it's only a word, but that's enough to stop him in a visceral way and show him that Sherlock isn't kidding at all.

And John knows that, really. But maybe it's because he doesn't want to wait anymore that he bends and touches the long cold shaft just one second before Sherlock catches it. The detective stands now, too, and it takes only one second for him to roll his fingers around the handle. Sharply, he lowers the crop and it slams with an indecent noise against the back of the doctor's hand.

John's skin gets whiter one second before colouring to a dark pink, which the doctor looks at, stunned. He raises his eyes as slowly as possible and when they meet those of his flatmate, he doesn't even try to retain the formless complaint which grumbles in his closed mouth. Sherlock leaves the tip of the crop against his hand and everything in his attitude inspires a sort of bestial respect. His almond eyes take on a denser, darker colour. A troubled water where John's body feels itself sinking.

John breathes in deeply when the crop goes back up along his forearm, coils up in the hollow of his elbow, before continuing its way up to his collarbone against which it stops. He follows the black tip with his gaze, and even if he doesn't look directly at him, he feels Sherlock walking around the table before standing in front of him. Sherlock waits while John dares to raise his eyes and slightly tilt his head to his left side and murmurs:

"Safeword?"

"Champagne."

Sherlock nods once and rests the crop against the collarbone which gives in under the pressure. It's not his wounded shoulder but John moves back all the same, and it takes him a few seconds to understand that was the purpose anyway. His grey eyes squint from the leather tip to Sherlock's hand and when his feet bang against the coffee table, he knows they have arrived in the middle of the living-room.

"I do not accept you yelling this way, do you understand?"

John nods, closing his eyes, but when the pressure on his collarbone gets painful he knows what he has to do:

"Yes. Yes I understand."

"I refuse that a human being as insignificant as Mark Barrow can put you in this state."

And it's not a question, but oh John agrees. He knows that he doesn't have to answer this time so he keeps his face lowered. Sherlock's still looking at him. He inspects him. He lets his eyes run over the body hidden behind a heap of useless fabrics and seems to pierce through them because he takes an infinite time to delight in it.

"On your knees," he finally imposes in a voice that is far too delicate.

Slowly, with muzzy gestures, John curls up until his knees hit the ground. Sherlock slides the crop under the chin he caresses, and it's enough to make John raise his face to him. Because Sherlock may stand and be dressed as if he's going to a wedding at Buckingham Fucking Palace, his smile is so bright that John feels terribly fortunate. It lasts for a brief moment, but there's a sort of pride in being the one who manages to make Sherlock smile this way, and it makes his head spin.

"John Watson," the detective murmurs in a sigh, words going out of his mouth as if he's tasting the most delicious sweetness.

John raises his eyes and shivers while the crop touches his face. He feels the leather rubbing his shaved cheek up to the sensitive part of his jaw, before returning back to his lips. The black tip pats them slowly in repetitive gestures and, while John's tongue presses the back of his teeth, he feels the pressure of the crop on his lower lip. He opens his mouth without any resistance, maybe wider than Sherlock would have imagined because his eyebrows raise in surprise.

"Well, who would have thought..." the detective smiles while the doctor's tongue slides out of his mouth and control to come and touch the tip. "My brave John, how do you keep surprising me?" he almost moans.

The doctor closes his eyes while he imprisons the dry leather against his palate. The sensation is strange, undoubtedly not natural. All the more reason to continue. He touches the intruder that he has accepted into him with his teeth, embraces it with all the ardent slickness of his tongue, and takes great delight in that enactment of a kiss with a contained groan.

Slowly, Sherlock's arm pulls back and John opens his mouth and eyes. Wet with his own saliva, he feels the leather tip sliding against his plump chin, up to his neck, while Sherlock advances a step forward to hang over his flatmate.

With his free hand, Sherlock touches the fair hair, from the top of the skull to the nape of the neck. His caresses are long, incredibly possessive. Then, he slides the riding-crop inside the doctor's shirt and brushes the skin of his torso. The touch is curious, almost rough, so John doesn't move, keeps his face raised towards the one who dominates him and bites his own lip when his left nipple is rubbed insistently. The hand of his flatmate is now on his face and redraws the same path as the crop did a few minutes ago. John knows that Sherlock, from the end of his fingers, registers somewhere in his brilliant brain these sensations which cross them both.

Will Sherlock Holmes, one day, get everything he wanted from living with John Watson and, satisfied with the memories filed up in his Mind Palace, grow tired of him? The thought is unhealthy, yet it repeats mentally inside the doctor, and to anchor himself in the present which seems to want to escape from his fingers, he puts his hands on the detective's thighs and hangs on to it.

That doesn't even seem to faze Sherlock who does nothing to prevent him from doing so, but who removes the crop out of his shirt to set it on the desk to his left before ordering:

"Take off your clothes."

John nods clumsily while he unbuttons his shirt in gestures he would want to be less fragile. He doesn't wear a tank top now that the temperatures are acceptable and he doesn't have the stupid envy to hide behind fabrics and excuses anymore anyway. He dances from one knee to the other to remove his jeans and boxers and doesn't mind that he's not very graceful right now because there's something going on in this living-room that has stopped his blood from flowing to his brain anymore and has sent it down to his cock. And it's almost awkward that he's already this hard while nothing has really happened yet, but almost is not enough to stop.

Sherlock breathes in deeply with an impressive slowness while he watches the doctor pushing away his clothes in a heap that they both forget about right away. It's broad daylight in the first floor living-room because the barely-opaque white curtains are not sufficient to prevent the last sunrays from coming in to cherish the doctor's skin. There's something close to mystical in being this naked and offered up, but John keeps silent in a very intelligent way about this feeling of being an offering. Sherlock's ego doesn't need to be compared to a god.

Under his knees the carpet, aged by years and steps, scratches his skin. Under his hands, it's the soft fabric of Sherlock's suit that caresses his palms. He puts his fingers on his flatmate at the same time that Sherlock takes back his influence on the fair head, and the left hand of the detective supports the nape of his neck while the right hand touches his chin, two fingers already in front of the closed lips.

"Open your mouth," orders Sherlock, and the obscenity of the thing doesn't hold in his words except in the way he says it out loud.

They're alone here, of course, but to murmur gives John the illusion they're alone in the world. If they raise their voice, the doctor is afraid someone would hear them and burst this bubble in which they have taken refuge, and in which John refuses to be something else other than himself.

His eyes squint at the fine fingers while he answers the order and watches them sink into his mouth, which he moistens by reflex. It's not something that he thought of having in his mind in that particular moment, but John's thinking about the detective's violin right now. He's seen Sherlock, so many times, bringing it out of his case, propping it up against his chin and sliding his hand on the rough strings, between divine notes and morbid feline rustlings. It's not surprising that a man like Sherlock Holmes manages to bring out of an inanimate object so many feelings, and John is very well placed right now to know stuff like that. It's as if his flatmate's playing with him while he's invading his mouth in an adagio movement, while he slides insistently against his tongue up to his teeth and takes out of the doctor's throat a series of soft complaints.

John is his instrument and of him, Sherlock can make whatever he wants. That's what invades the doctor's mind, that's what sends Barrow flying, the rent for 221B which will be harder to pay now than before. That's what makes him forget all the troubles without spelling that which keeps him on the ground with all their unbearable gravity.

His knees may be on the ground, but his spirit evaporates. With a feverish body, it's with even more strength that he hangs on to Sherlock's hips. Blindly, he feels his flatmate bending forward, squeezing the nape of his neck with an obvious possessiveness before he growls:

"Suck."

And John Watson knows how to obey orders. With tense muscles and a mouth wetter than ever, John rolls up in his tongue both fingers which are coming and going between his lips in a movement that he doesn't have the naivety to believe has any ulterior motives. And when John imagines sticking something else other than Sherlock's index finger against his palate, his heart makes a leap in his already dancing rib cage; but seven years of medicine aren't sufficient to know if this particular beating betrays fear or haste. Then John acts as his most primary desires have taught him: the unknown, he rushes into it. It's also what Sherlock is teaching him, to see in spite of the darkness, to vibrate in spite of the coolness of his sad bloody life. It's been that, since the beginning, since these messages:

Baker Street. Come at once if convenient. SH

If inconvenient come anyway. SH

Could be dangerous. SH

They are not just words, it's a fable, a fucking therapy. It's succeeding in telling John, leave everything right now. Forget and let go. And come back to me.

John opens his eyes and maybe they're so red because he had them closed with such strength that Sherlock's shoulders tighten, but it's especially because Sherlock understands. It's in the shivers traveling the naked body, in the muffled groans, in the way the fingers are hanging on the detective's hips. John Watson did let go.

"Oh, John," Sherlock moans, moving his fingers back before catching in his wet hand the face of his flatmate which he brings towards his own. "Where did you hide the condoms?"

"My room, my bedroom," John repeats, because God how he's afraid of not being understood, and that makes Sherlock smile with an impertinent tenderness.

He seems to understand the doctor's haste but his movements are reassuring. With his right hand he surrounds John's jaw and makes him get back on his feet. The doctor's legs are killing him, he doesn't have time to spread them before Sherlock is already pressing a hand to the middle of his torso.

"Go get them."

John nods once before turning around and running up to the stairs. He's not cold, but he's not warm, either. It's doesn't matter that he's running naked in the common areas because what matters is the look of Sherlock, Sherlock's hands, what Sherlock is giving him at the moment. He pushes open the door of his bedroom without a lot of grace, invades the small room with his erratic breath and runs up to the bedside table which he opens, drawer after drawer, to find the blue box, the one that he hadn't put back on the shelf in the supermarket.

He had never hidden them, nevertheless if he knew very well that Sherlock would look for them everywhere in the apartment, he especially knew that his flatmate would never come up to his bedroom. It's a kind of silent rule they both agreed on from the first day the doctor moved in, even if they've never spoken about it. In spite of all the hackings of his computer and the ruined dates, this respect for his intimacy is probably the most beautiful present that Sherlock has ever given him. John wonders if he's presently giving him the most beautiful of presents in return.

From the third drawer he brings out the blue box and turns around, ready to come down again, but stops when he sees Sherlock standing in the doorway. Neither of them comment out loud on the memory of this situation, when Sherlock came up to this floor and when John was still smelling the chlorine and had assured Sherlock with a very confident voice that he was handling it. But John's lies appear to the face of his flatmate as the purest of murmured truths.

John stands up and stands still, nude in the middle of his bedroom. He knows why his flatmate doesn't take a step forward, he knows that he's missing something that Sherlock's been waiting for from day one. And John doesn't have any more reasons to wait, either.

"Come in," and this time he doesn't murmur.

He sees Sherlock's shoulders lowering, as if he's down to his last ounce of strength and while John's ready to ask to him if everything is okay, he sees the detective putting first one foot on wooden floor, then the second. It takes no more than four steps before Sherlock is in front of him, and he puts his hands on his cheeks and his lips on his, before invading his mouth with a tongue which John thinks has never been more brilliant.

From the first moment, from the first breath which dies in John's throat, he feels the kiss suffocating him, pulling outside of himself all the gangrenous desire he has been shutting down for months. Sherlock's tongue's invading him, makes their groans collide and mix, move them closer while John's arms hang on to Sherlock's still dressed shoulders. They are holding each other in a painful way, because neither of them will release the other one, not now when they're finally expressing themselves without using any words.

In the wetness of the kiss, their tongues are melting one against the other. Sherlock's fingers anchored on the doctor's jaw will leave marks for sure. He presses them against the hollow of the cheeks to keep John's mouth open, as if he's afraid that John will stop the kiss. The doctor's heart will soon break, it's a sure thing based on the knocks it gives against his rib cage, but the idea that his last breath could be pushed into Sherlock's mouth comforts him more than it frightens him.

They separate their lips and it's by reflex that the doctor bends again to continue the kiss, but the detective's hands catch him by the shoulders and make him kneel again. He takes the blue box and puts it in the hands of his flatmate who opens it with trembling gestures. John would like to keep his eyes on the aluminum sleeve he has difficulty opening, but he cannot refrain from watching in front of him as Sherlock's fingers remove his belt and open the buttons of his pants before revealing black boxers which aren't enough to hide his desire. That lasts no more than one minute before Sherlock dims the useless boxers and frees his erection. John straightens up a bit on his knees before he's ready to put the condom on him.

When he puts his fingers on the hard cock for the first time, he feels this sort of knot at the bottom of his stomach which had already made its appearance when, at the back of a tent lost in the middle of Wales, John touched a man for the first time during his military training. It's a knot which has the pain of prohibition, the color of transgression and inevitably, the perfume of desire. A knot which built up in his entrails every time he heard his uncle call the bookseller from down the road Faggot, every time the neighbors were giving Harry a tangible look of disapproval, every time the books and movies he watched showed him the omnipresence of the heterosexual frame in which John never blossomed.

He shushes his last resentments in a second and diligently unrolls the condom down the entire length of the cock in front of his face. When he realises that he's not putting his hand on the length simply to be sure he put the condom on well but also to continue to make Sherlock moan, he knows that the knot located somewhere behind his navel has disappeared.

"Wait," Sherlock suddenly says.

John watches his flatmate unbuttoning his shirt with one hand, before imposing between the fingers of the doctor the tie which he just removed.

"To release it means saying your safeword, OK?"

"All right," John nods before rolling up the blue fabric between his right hand's fingers.

John comes a bit closer, puts his hands on his flatmate's hips, returns by automatism to the position which Sherlock imposed him in the living-room and waits to feel the hand of the detective holding the nape of his neck to open his mouth and put it around the hot member. It's not really a sensation he knows and the first seconds are long and heavy as the tip presses against his tongue. He takes his time to become used to this situation that he knows much more in another configuration and keeps his eyes closed. Diligently, he widens his tongue as far as possible, feels the latex rubbing his palate and jumps with surprise when his teeth get involved in the equation. It's not perfect, hell it isn't, but John won't stop. It takes him a few seconds to get used to the presence and to dare to swallow the cock a bit farther in his mouth and when Sherlock's first moan sings in his ear, the doctor's heart loses a beat for good.

"Perfect, John, good boy. Open your mouth, wider, do that for me."

Of course, John can't answer. He doesn't waste time and simply obeys. His jaw opens and Sherlock catches the base of his cock to sink in a bit more, and John suddenly realises that they really are doing this. It's not an experiment, nor a misunderstanding. They're not coming back drunk from any stupid parties. And it's not only the discovery of John's body to gain his trust. They're fucking and there's no unit of measure high enough to define the way John's feeling right now.

They're surrounded by a smothering heat and the fact that the doctor's mouth is taken doesn't help him to breathe as he'd like. He breathes in through the nose, expires through the mouth when Sherlock pulls out far enough, and swallows when he can, but all the vital acts aren't really their priority now. Sherlock's cock still sinks farther and the hips John's holding begin to move in rhythm, incited by the guttural groans which manage to escape from his throat.

"John," Sherlock suddenly grumbles and his voice is hardly recognisable.

The doctor opens his eyes and looks for the first time at the face overhanging him. It's an obvious fact, of course, Sherlock is magnificent, but he has never been so beautiful. His lips are half-opened and are letting escape an obscene breath which is mixing with the stuffy moaning of the oldest. There are some improbable locks stuck to the sweat on his forehead and his eyes are of a rare darkness while his cheekbones are a lovely red. Sherlock releases the base of his member, sinks deeper than ever into the groaning mouth and puts his hand on top of John's to verify that he's still holding the tie, which of course he is, even if the doctor understands that his flatmate is about to come.

"Really, John? Oh what a wonderful thing you are, letting me come in your mouth..."

John doesn't move any more as the pressure on his neck gets painful. Sherlock's thrusts are quick and dry now and he's moaning in long complaints. He's holding the doctor's head in earnest and keeps both of his eyes open to look at him while he fucks his mouth with a possessiveness he can't hide. His thrusts are slowly getting out of control and his eyes start to close, and John tries to relax his throat as much as possible. Sherlock's sighs one last time, a dirty and yet wonderful praise, before the doctor feels on his tongue the heat of his come through the condom.

Sherlock takes close to a minute to retrieve his senses before slowly moving backward. John would like to touch himself and come, right now, but he knows Sherlock's the one in charge so he doesn't move and he waits for the instruction, the tie still in his hand. He carefully watches when the detective takes off the condom and he throws it away, and doesn't prevent himself from shivering when he feels a warm hand catching his shoulder before forcing him to sit down on his own bed.

This time it's Sherlock who kneels and while he catches some of the fair hair to get his face close to the doctor's, his second hand rolls up around the hard length already wet with precome.

"You are so good for me, do you know that? Do you know how good you are for me? You're perfect, magnificent. God, look at you, John."

But of course John can't look away while he dives into the shady water of Sherlock's eyes in which he drowns himself without remembering how to breathe. He doesn't need to look at his own body to feel the dichotomy; he's old and marked, and Sherlock's of an impertinent beauty. It's maybe because he has in mind the absurd cliché that the oldest body should be the one in charge that he finds this situation such a delicious indecency.

Sherlock's hand releases the fair hair and forces it in front of his mouth as he orders:

"Get them nice and wet, John."

The doctor does as he's told and opens his lips to suck with greediness at the finger invading his mouth. He knows very well what his flatmate is preparing as Sherlock stopped caressing his cock to make him open his legs. Sherlock frees his panting mouth without warning and trails his wet fingers between the doctor's legs. He puts his right hand on the member he surrounds without sweetness and cherishes it with such a perfect dexterity that John has to push his nails in his palms to refrain from coming too fast.

"Look. At. Yourself," orders Sherlock, emphasising every word with a slap on the doctor's thigh and there is a point of plea in his voice that makes John not even blinking anymore.

"Yes," he moans as he feels Sherlock's finger pressing between his legs until the first phalanx enters in him.

Sherlock may be particularly slow, but the pain is very real. John moans with his closed mouth, shakes his head without being aware of it, without knowing why either, and while the pressure in his groin gets ardent, he raises his left hand to hang on to the brown locks. Sherlock barely moves his forefinger, only touching John's cock and it's enough to make the doctor crumble.

"Sh-Sherlock..."

"Yes. Come. Come for me."

John moans one last time before he sees himself emptying in his flatmate's hand, milking him through his orgasm. It lasts some precious seconds which John adores with all of his body even if his eyes can't see anything precise and his legs are incredibly sore. There's a heat burning in his belly and thighs that makes him sigh a bit more before he falls down against the bed, body already crushed by Sherlock's. They hang on to each other and, even if his flatmate is scratching his skin by dint of holding on to him, John will not move, because there's this question which has haunted and obsessed him for months now. So he asks with his hoarse voice, out of breath:

"Do you ever think about what happened at the swimming pool?"

"Every day."

John breathes in and Sherlock breathes out, while their embrace tightens. Loving Sherlock has always been the most beautiful way of self-destruction. And when that chimeric life with which you have fooled yourself has crashed beneath your feet, there's only one thing left to do.

Rebuild.

Chapter Text

Note: Hello y'all! Many, many thanks for the last kudos and reviews, you guys are spoiling me. Today, please enjoy chapter 18, corrected once again, by the terrific Morwen Maranwe! Thank you so much, dear!


"You're getting crumbs everywhere..."

"Yes, but I'm allowed to, because it's my bed."

Sherlock sighs uselessly while John pulls the cover a bit more over his naked chest. They've been fully awake for half an hour now even though the doctor opened his eyes before that but didn't want to move too soon. The previous night, they ended up sleeping in the doctor's single bed, one against the other, moving (and grumbling) indefatigably. Sherlock removed his suit and even though John can only see a part of the hairless chest, he can feel his flatmate's bare legs against his own. Skin against skin, they only have the sense of touch to mutually discover one another, and that doesn't help the annoying morning erection.

It's barely eight o'clock in the morning now and even though John's stomach's gurgling, there's no way they're going to leave the bed that is now wearing both of their smells. So, John leans over his flatmate to take out of his bedside table a package of biscuits. He did offer one to Sherlock, of course, but received a shrug as an answer which he correctly interpreted as 'Seriously?'

"Would you have a kettle and some tea, here, by any chance?" Sherlock asks, inspecting the bedroom as if he could really find this kind of utensil.

"Of course I do, next to the pressure-cooker and my Aston Martin."

"No wonder you are in a bad mood in the morning, your bed is really small. How can you manage to sleep here?"

"Generally, I'm alone," John answers with a nod.

"Even though..."

"And what about you Sherlock, why is your bed so big? To welcome your numerous conquests?" he laughs in return before realising the incongruity of the conversation.

Shit, it's not something he thought about before putting a condom on the member (very well built, by the way) of his flatmate and before pushing it into his panting mouth, but from now on to joke about Sherlock Holmes' sexual life is going to be much more difficult, now that they are... that they are...

"We can buy an additional kettle and install it on your bedside table, there is a rather close power point," Sherlock starts again, as if speaking about a kettle is more important than settling the question which torments John, before the doctor hurries to answer:

"Yes, yes, definitively."

"My bedroom is bigger, of course, closer to the kitchen and better decorated. But if it is possible that we end up between your sheets again, then we should plan for the following mornings. Do you see an inconvenience in that?" asks the detective, turning his head to the doctor's, which shakes.

Sherlock sketches a smile of which the echo ends up on John's lips. Sherlock takes his left hand off the thick blanket and puts it on the fair nape of the neck and John understands the silent order to get closer, until he sits on the detective's fine thighs. He pushes away the cover by moving, and if he doesn't prevent the formless complaint escaping from his closed mouth when he sees in the light of day Sherlock's absolutely perfect chest, he doesn't comment out loud on the fact that his friend kept on his boxers. Cheater.

"I can go make us some tea if you want," Sherlock proposes with a smooth voice, sliding his hand on the doctor's skin.

"That would be a very good id..."

"But you will have to thank me when I come back," he finishes, pinching a nipple furtively.

John smiles, stretching his jaw, and shakes his head.

"Blackmail, Mister Holmes?"

"Just a matter of perspective," he answers before getting up.

Sherlock moves their chests closer and joins his second hand with the first one while insistently cherishing the pectoral muscles of the ex-soldier. He brushes the fair hairs before going back up along the neck, which he surrounds with a soft hand. He bends, nibbles the chin, and slides his teeth along the jaw before biting, hardly one second. John closes his eyes and the shivers rising along his back confirm to him that even in his possessiveness, Sherlock is the embodiment of sophistication. He reopens his eyes just in time to see the musician's long white hands sliding on his arms, which they test the power of in two apparently convincing pressures (because Sherlock's only wearing his boxers after all). The fingers continue their inspection up to the wrists they surround with a perceptible restraint and Sherlock admits in a breath:

"I am going to go make us this bloody tea, but when I come back, I am going to attach your wrists to the bars of the..." he stops, turns around to notice that there's no headboard or any bars, sighs, and starts again, irritated, "my bedroom is definitively more adapted. Well I will attach your wrists and ankles to be sure that you will not move while I do what I planned to do on, above, or inside you," he sighs, tightening his grip.

"O-okay," John smiles, hurrying to slide off to give Sherlock the possibility of getting up.

He watches the long white body - so white - deploying in the light of day and only blinks when his flatmate closes the door behind him. In a noisy sigh, John lets himself fall against the pillows and observes the ceiling. It's doubtlessly a dream, an illusion, it's certainly not the reality. Not because John had never imagined he'd wake up next to a man not completely dressed, but it's that he had never imagined he'd be so... content. It's strange, and also sad, to think he had to wait for thirty year to find what really makes him happy in life.

He sprawls in the tepid sheets, sliding his fingers where Sherlock was still laying a few minutes ago. It's enough to make him smile.

When he hears steps going up the staircase, John reflexively passes his hand through his fair hair to try to calm his cowlick, which he doesn't see but feels all the same, and he recovers a bit more on the pillow behind him. The steps are slow, Sherlock might be carrying a heavy tray - did he think of making grilled bread? The steps are slowing down now, as if Sherlock didn't want to come up. And then there's another noise—banging, at intervals. An unbearable tap-tap, like a cane. And then the steps resound on the landing and the tap-tap is more distinct. It is not a cane...

"Hello Doctor."

... But an umbrella.

Bloody hell.

"For God's sake, Mycroft!" John yells, pulling the blanket over his naked body and up to his trembling chin.

The oldest of the Holmes brothers leaves the door open and comes into the doctor's bedroom, looking at everything around him as if he is about to buy the place.

"It is from here that the smell comes..."

"What are you doing here?"

"I come to see Sherlock."

"No, I mean, what are you doing here, in my bedroom," corrects John, teeth clenched with anger.

"... I come to see Sherlock," Mycroft repeats as if he was stating a fucking obvious fact.

The politician catches a chair, which he pulls in the middle of the room. With the end of his umbrella, he pushes away John's jumper that is on it before taking a seat and crossing his legs in an aristocratic gesture that smells like naphthalene. He hangs his jacket on the back of the chair, then does the same with the handle of his umbrella before facing the doctor to whom he dedicates an unbearable smile. Well, he is apparently settled to stay.

"Beautiful day, right?"

"I don't know, I haven't gone out yet," John curses, looking at the hour on his mobile: 8:22 am.

"Which explains the smell; you really should aerate."

"Why do you even have an umbrella?" John asks, so irritated that he is ready to bite.

"Oh, I would have to kill you if I answered that question," Mycroft explains with a smile which betrays the fact that he doesn't seem totally against this idea.

"With your umbrella?" he wonders, raising an eyebrow.

"Mycroft."

Mycroft and John turn around and discover Sherlock in the doorway, only dressed in his black boxers, a tray in his hands - which John suspects to be the base of their wooden chessboard - on which he put a teapot and two cups. John takes advantage of the fact that the government official is turning his back on him to make a sign to his flatmate to bugger off and chop-chop, but waving by pointing at the stairs doesn't seem to be a clear gesture for the detective, who enters the room anyway. He by-passes his brother, who at least has the decency to look away when he gets closer, and puts the tray on the bedside table, pushing away the box of condoms which falls in the small space between the piece of furniture and the wall. He goes back under the covers in his turn, cheerfully pushing John who doesn't think he could be hallucinating more. In fact, it's not a dream, but definitively a nightmare.

"Tea, what a lovely idea, dear brother mine," Mycroft is enchanted, making himself a cup of tea before sitting down again at the bottom of his squeezing seat.

"Why did you come here, Mycroft?" asks the youngest Holmes, raising his eyes to heaven, arms already crossed against his chest.

"Well, seeing as you did not answer my texts, I wanted to come to verify that everything was well."

"I have not answered you since yesterday evening."

"I worry a lot," Mycroft smiles (and lies) before bringing the burning tea to his lips.

John, pushed as far as possible against the cold wall so as not to touch his flatmate's naked body, frowns and asks:

"It's you who's been sending him all these messages for the past three weeks?"

"I asked Sherlock to take care of a small case for me."

"A case too complicated for him," Sherlock explains, turning his head to his flatmate.

"It is just that I did not have time to take care of it," Mycroft corrects, raising his nose in a haughty movement.

"Please dear brother mine, your case was disturbingly obvious: your chambermaid isn't betraying the nation, she simply met a young man a few months ago and maintains with him a sexual relation. Believe me, John, since Mycroft made a pact with Satan and exchanged his heart for the possibility of not killing his interlocutors of boredom just by opening his mouth, he is incapable of seeing if two people are having a sexual or sentimental relationship."

"Oh, I doubt that," Mycroft smiles over his steaming cup, looking the doctor straight in the eyes.

John alternately observes both Holmes brothers, the youngest which by his simple gaze wants to persuade him that the oldest is fooled while they are both naked, or not far from being naked, in his single bed, and the other which is openly laughing at him all the way to his little finger raised by the very British education he received.

"Okay, I don't give a damn, clearly. Mycroft, given the fact you have your answer, would you have the kindness to leave my bedroom?"

"Of course doctor, as soon as I am done with my tea. So tell me, Sherlock, how is this musician's murder story going? I am bored, amuse me with the narrative of your failed case."

"Wouldn't you rather want us to buy you sudokus?"

"The case is moving forward at its pace and it is not failed," spits Sherlock without considering John's proposal. "We were able to establish that Sherrer was following Denosa, thus neither Sanchez nor Steele were able to be the shooters. Of course, I suspected Craig Jennings at first. I couldn't believe a man that dull could exist without faking it a bit, but it turns out that this man is truly and profoundly stupid - he even began a hunger strike to try to get back custody of his son. Benjamin Cox was also in my sight, but seeing his reaction when I pointed John's weapon at him, it is obvious that he would have never had the notch to kill a man in cold blood. And then, there was only one shot, perfectly targeted, the killer is a professional. John thinks it is Angie Walsh. She is young, but her family is used to the venery. Angie Walsh, thus, is used to handling firearms since she was a child - but I'm missing the mobile."

"Maybe she wanted us to accuse her future brother-in-law, or at least, who, we found out through investigating doesn't have English citizenship... It's a bit extreme but she could have..."

"Doris Cox now: Doris is a real mystery. And say that the newspapers make serial killers appear as human beings difficult to understand, in comparison to fifty-year-old women, they are easy as pie," Sherlock pursues without noticing that he interrupted John, one more time. "I've followed her for several weeks and searched her home because I didn't understand her need to overprotect her son, Benjamin."

"Benjamin has Down syndrome," explains the doctor to Mycroft but the gesture is in vain because the oldest Holmes has turned to his brother, of whom he drinks in the words.

"During these last months, she took care of always taking the mail before him and every time I called on their telephone - to plead an advertising call or a call from their bank - she answered, sometimes out of breath, proving that she preferred to tumble down three floors rather than to let her son answer. And then there is this so-called husband on a business trip, which I looked into. If Doris is actually married to a Robert Cox, Robert Cox is also the name of a British citizen who died at Walvis Bay, in Namibia, seven months ago, during a road accident."

"The father of Benjamin died?" John asks, bewildered.

"It is clear that she did not tell her son because of his cardiac problems and as she is afraid that a mail or a phone call will give away the truth, she has been overprotective of him for the last few months."

"Is the car accident reliable?"

"I went myself to hear the witnesses and to inspect the autopsy report: it is a real accident," Sherlock confirms in a nod.

"Yeah, act like I don't exist, why would I mind?" says John with irony.

"I questioned all the suspects, I followed them, pursued them. I have even invited Benjamin Cox here and had dinner with Sheri Walsh. I know their lives by heart but I do not understand what I am missing..." says Sherlock, losing his temper, putting his forefingers on his temples, which he massages.

"If only I had time to take care of it, I would resolve this case in a handful of minutes," Mycroft sighs in an unbearable theatrical gesture before relaxing a bit more on his chair.

"The Walsh family possesses a Mossberg 500 hunting gun, of course it's impossible that the calibre can correspond," murmurs the detective blindly, with so much strength that all of his face grimaces.

"... Because it is obvious that what you're missing, Sherlock, is..."

"Shut up!" the youngest Holmes roars, pointing at his older brother. "I do not need you, I will take care of this case alone!"

"Well, Cain and Abel, even if it's very pleasing that you forgot about my existence, I'm going to leave you. Move, Sherlock, please," John grimaces, tapping the thigh of his flatmate under the cover to tell him that it's time to think about moving.

The detective instinctively turns his head, finger still pointing at Mycroft. His eyes are slightly bulged and he has this sort of madness in them, characteristic of the deductive genius starting up.

"What did you just say?" he asks, decomposing every syllable.

"That it's very nice you forget about me but I'd like..."

"The most important thing. I forget the most important thing," the detective slowly realises, opening his eyes and hands wide.

John frowns but his look is automatically attracted by the vision of Mycroft smiling more than is reasonable.

"I forget Sherrer. I know the life of all these idiots but I don't even know the life of Philipp Sherrer."

"Of course we do, we went to his place, we know his flatmates, we know that he was a comedian, we know how long he's been playing in the orchestra..."

"And so what? Who is he? Who does he see? Why would anyone want to kill him during a representation? What is he hiding from us? That's it! That's what I need! It is not what the suspects are hiding that I have to discover, it is what Philipp Sherrer is hiding from me. John, get dressed!" Sherlock exclaims suddenly, getting up and pushing away the cover enough so that John is exposed for two embarrassing seconds.

The detective by-passes the chair where his brother is still sitting and goes downstairs at a crazy speed, into his bedroom where he slams the door with a resounding noise. John shakes his head slightly, still not very aware of what just happened, and turns his head to discover that Mycroft's still smiling at him - and it's incredible that a human being can be this creepy by simply showing his teeth. Maybe the pact with Satan is a true story after all.

They remain silent for a few terrible long minutes, and it's officially the most bloody awakening time of John Watson's life.

"Well Doctor, this meeting has been very enriching."

"Delighted to hear that. And may I know why?"

"I know what I shall offer you when you come to celebrate Christmas in Hastings at our parents' home: pyjamas."

John half-opens his lips, ready to answer that no, no, no, no no no, Mycroft is so wrong, but Sherlock has already opened the door and even if his coat is not closed and his shoes aren't tired, it's with an insane smile and fire dancing in his eyes that he announces in a voice stuffed with excitement:

"John, we are going to search Philipp Sherrer's apartment and we are going to find what he hides from us. Mycroft, give me three days to resolve this case, three days, otherwise I'll leave it up to you. And John, bring your toolkit. I already have your weapon with me."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone! Thank you for the last reviews, kudos and bookmarks, you guys are the best :) Of course I can't publish anything without saying a HUGE thank you to my amazing beta Morwen Maranwe for her amazing support. The case is almost done, you'll then find in this chapter the last clues. If you think you found the culprit, don't hesitate in saying so in the comments ;) Meanwhile, enjoy your reading.




It doesn't change much, but when he and Sherlock meet a fifty-year old woman in the stairwell, John has the reflex to smile at her and wish her a good day. She would have probably never noticed their existence, but when they're about to enter a dead man's place, John always has a renewal of absurd politeness. They arrive at the landing on which they walked for the first time months ago, and when Sherlock takes out of the pocket of his coat his equipment to force the lock, John asks:

"Lestrade knows we're searching Sherrer's flat, right?"

"Yes of course, I told him."

"Are we waiting for him or..."

"No need."

And he barely finishes his sentence when the traditional click of the forced-opened latch resounds. Sherlock smiles - proud, of course, he never misses an opportunity to be - and stretches out his arm to invite John to enter first.

The apartment is still inhabited by Marina Jones and Bill Hendrik, but it looks like nothing they know. The living-room probably hasn't seen a vacuum pass since Prince George was still an only child and there are dirty plates on the coffee table which remind John of the state of their own place.

"Does that seem familiar?" he asks, smiling at his flatmate over his shoulder.

Sherlock returns his smile before going into the kitchen from which he immediately comes back out of.

"The kitchen is in the same state."

He raises two fingers of the left hand to tell John to follow him. While they're walking down the right corridor, the doctor remembers that a few meters away is Philipp Sherrer's bedroom.

"They didn't keep his bedroom the way it was, right?"

"No, of course, they rented it punctually. Remember what the flatmates told us; he had the biggest room after all."

Sherlock presses the hand on the latch and it's the same as months ago, except the sheets are a different color, Sherrer's pictures on stage are replaced by pictures of some woman's holiday and the scrawled scores by decorating magazines. The detective doesn't even seem to look at these new elements before he invades the room, going directly to the cupboards. He opens the first one and John accelerates his step to come look over his shoulder, but they only discover a mess of clothes and shoes. Sherlock closes it, takes two steps to the left and opens the second where they discover the fuse box, a dusty vacuum cleaner and cardboard boxes on which is written "PHILIPP". Sherlock smiles (and John can see it even from where from he's placed) and removes his coat which he throws on the bed before bending to take out the boxes, helped by the doctor. They grumble a little because the cardboards are heavy and the thick carpet doesn't allow them to slide, and as John is more muscled anyway, it's him who eventually carries them up to the foot of the bed which Sherlock points at.

"He had way more things when we came the first time," notices John, looking at only three boxes.

"His flatmates threw away the less important things."

"Do you trust people now?"

"After a tragedy, affection can make miracles," Sherlock smiles, already on his knees near the boxes, which he opens unceremoniously.

John removes his jacket, puts it on the chair of the small desk and sits down in his turn on the beige carpet before opening the second one. Unsurprisingly, they find scores and, by looking at his flatmate, John understands that they have to read every notation, then he wrinkles his eyes and moves the paper closer to his thickset nose. He would like to ask Sherlock what they're supposed to look for but as he's not sure Sherlock has an answer to that, he prefers to keep silent and drinks in all the 'More Intense', 'Phrasing', 'Buy toothpaste' which he skims through.

They spend an infinite time taking out and reading all of the scores. They wear a smile every time they read the name of Liszt, which is definitively recurring, and they think about Benjamin. John hopes that Sherlock will thank him for his help. There is no doubt he will thank him himself.

They then find a plastic pocket in which are pictures of the musician: some taken during a show, some taken in this same flat during what seems to be a birthday or Christmas. On the photographs, Sherrer clashes due to his impeccable suits and his grey hair so delicately brushed, while the rest of the guests and his flatmates seems more comfortable in their jeans and sneakers. John smiles, noticing that the age difference is blatant in these pictures while he had never thought of it before. At 37 years old, Sherrer would have been able to be married, to also have a child on the way, why not, but the life in London is so out of sync that it's with flatmates who were ten years younger that he spent his last years. And that would not be sad if John isn't realising at this instant that he was the same age as Philipp. He doesn't blink and slides the last photograph back into the yellow plastic pocket.

"What?" asks the detective.

"Nothing, the photos are useless..."

"I'm not asking about Sherrer, but about you."

Closing the plastic pocket, John raises his head and looks at Sherlock, sitting cross-legged against the bed, Saint-Saëns's Dance Macabre scores in his hands. It's always getting back to him as a gentle but firm slap behind his neck, even if it's bloody obvious, that Sherlock is genuinely beautiful with his almond-shaped eyes which are as offensive as they are cherishing, his milky skin and the brown curls contrasting on the top of his skull. Sherlock Holmes must have been created to drive the world mad and it's not John who'll say otherwise, not when the only thing crossing his mind right now is how much he wants to pull him into his arms and lay him on the bed against which they're sitting - but of course, it's not very polite to fuck somebody between sheets that are not your property.

"It's just that..."

"You're thinking."

"Yeah, I'm thinking and I..."

"And you wonder what's going on between us."

"Sherlock, if you're going to interrupt me all the time, don't ask me questions!"

"I help you go faster!" the detective gets indignant, opening his mouth wide.

"No, that doesn't help me, that's stressing me out!"

"I stress you out? Oh, that is the stupidest thing you've said this week. Come on, John, tell me what you're thinking about, so we can continue our research. And say it now because we still have one box to open. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me," Sherlock urges, fixing on the doctor's eyes, which raise to heaven.

"Oh for God's sake, all right. It's just that, it's going to come out that you and I..."

"We're sleeping together."

"Yes, something like that. And what are people going to say? 'Sherlock Holmes and John Watson together', that's absurd."

"What people?"

The doctor opens his lips, ready to answer, but nothing comes out of it and he frowns when Sherlock resumes:

"Oh, you still think that your blog attracts the crowds? Put it in your skull once and for all: nobody cares about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson's sexual life. Now, stop with Sherrer's pictures and help me emptying the last box," Sherlock imposes, pushing away the one he emptied.

John's lips open and close twice before he understands that he won't be able to answer. He puts himself on his knees, avoids hundreds of papers surrounding them and helps Sherlock pull the last box closed with an adhesive tape which he hardly remove. Inside, there's a dark grey costume inlayed with small twinkling pearls which John saw worn in pictures of a representation where Sherrer was playing Hamlet. He removes it with delicacy, inspects it briefly and puts it on the bed, whereas Sherlock brings out a shoe box filled with letters which he starts to read. John sighs before murmuring:

"I hate it."

Sherlock raises his head and the doctor pursues:

"The letters, it's always the saddest part. If people keep them it's because it's precious to them or…I don't know. You see what I mean?" asks John, frowning even if he's persuaded he's making a fool of himself in front of his friend.

"Let's make it more pleasant, then," the detective proposes with a slightly lower voice.

Sherlock approaches until he slowly pushes John by the shoulders, until the doctor lays down on his back without a word. When his flatmate straddles his pelvis, he doesn't hold back the growl escaping from his clenched teeth.

"Sh... Sherlock."

"Read that," the detective imposes, putting a letter in his hands.

The writing is delicate, the paper thin. Holding it in front of a ray of light, the transparency makes the reading difficult because the words written behind overlap those which John attempts to decipher. The letter is seven years old and if he gets ready to ask his flatmate if he's really obliged to read what he considers to be an intimate object, he stops when he feels Sherlock's hands unbuttoning the first buttons of his shirt.

"What are you doing?!" John whispers, raising his head to observe his flatmate over the letter.

"I told you to read," Sherlock repeats, pressing his forefinger to the middle of the doctor's forehead in order to force him to put his head back on the carpet.

"Sherlock, not here..."

"Read," and this time, it's an order.

John gives an outraged laugh (if the hoarse breath escaping from his throat can be considered a laugh) before putting the letter back in front of his face. As best he can, he ignores the sensation of having his shirt opened wide and the detective's hands sliding on his skin like Sherlock is cherishing porcelain that he is afraid to break. John breathes in and starts to read out loud:

"Dear Philipp. First of all, forgive me for my late reply. I had trouble finding your address in the mess of my moving. When will you come to Ripon? You should see Marlene, you can use her new car to come. I received the divorce papers this morning and everything's settled. I'm getting the beach house in Brighton, then you know where we'll spend our sum—Sherl..."

John stops, hands squeezed around the letter while those of his flatmate close around his pectoral muscles and his teeth nibble the swollen skin. The doctor has the reflex to want to move his pelvis but the strength Sherlock's exercising above him is enough to make him understand that he's not supposed to make the slightest gesture.

"What are you..."

"Keep reading," Sherlock simply states, voice low and ardent over his breastbone.

"... Then you know where we we'll spend our summer. I bought the CD of Isreal Yinon you told me about, it's so beautiful, I hope that you will be lucky enough one day to play with him. I wanted to send you the book I spoke to you about but I went to the post office and the expenses are crazy so I'll give it to you when we see each other... Here, the weather is finally nice... I hope you're doing well."

John swallows, eyes closing by reflex and his legs stretching out when Sherlock's hands tighten on the skin which he rubs and bites with obvious pleasure. John isn't sure how he's supposed to finish reading this absolutely uninteresting letter while he feels Sherlock's cock hardening against his thigh through the fabric of his suit. And, as sleeping in a stranger's bed is not something morally acceptable, maybe kissing his flatmate on the carpet is totally okay? John prays for that to be true.

"Send me press clippings if there are articles about your concerts (I gave up the idea of reading about you as a comedian, ahah!). With all my love... Give me news as soon as possible. Sherlock, for Heaven's sake, what's the point in knowing all that?" John moans, pushing away the letter and seeing his flatmate's mouth devouring his left nipple, which is only making him harder.

Sherlock catches the paper out of his hand to toss it through the room and puts his fingers on the doctor's back. He grips without sweetness, presses John's pelvis against his and both of them moan.

"Just to prove to you that all the letters are not sad."

"Of course, when you rub yourself on me like that..."

"It is because there are really few problems that an orgasm can't solve."

John shakes his head in spite of him, his teeth molding his lower lip and no, they're not going to fuck here, not in the bedroom of a dead man of whom they have been investigating (and failing, also) the murder of, for months; not among the pictures of a life which stopped in front of hundreds of witnesses, not in the middle of stupid letters and ridiculous costumes, John is sure, absolutely sure, definitely sure. But his flatmate slides his hand under his jeans to rub his buttock then, and sod it.

"Sherlock," he moans eventually, rolling his arms around the detective's neck and laying on top of him.

Sherlock suffocates him, presses him with all of his magnificent presence. He feels against his thigh the hard member which his mouth already wants to suck with all its wet heat. Sherlock presses his free hand on the summit of the fair skull which he surrounds unceremoniously, using his legs to rub himself against the body he oppresses.

"All the letters are the same. No disappointed loves, no hidden children," he moans, biting the offered neck.

"If you say so," answers John, who tries to unbutton the shirt which prevents their bodies from touching.

"The last one he received dates from his moving in here. Nothing which can help us in this affair."

"Okay, great," pants John, who really doesn't care about the case right now, not while the fair hairs of his chest rub against the milky skin of Sherlock's.

"John?"

"What?"

"I am very well aware that you have a lot of respect for this kind of place but: I want you."

"I know, I know, Sherlock, me too. Don't stop, don't stop, please," he murmurs, catching Sherlock's face between his fingers before touching his lips with his.

He barely kisses him at first, because it's the first time John imposes a decision in their relationship and he knows that it's not the order of things. With their eyes open, as close as they are, they have to squint to look at one another. And Sherlock doesn't make them languish any longer while he catches a handful of fair hair which he pulls before taking the panting mouth with his tongue. Under their bodies, the scores crumple when their pelvises rub one to another. John's feet take support against the carpet and they don't even hear the grating of the creased photographs. John is concentrating too much to listen to the obscene groans Sherlock pushes into his mouth and Sherlock is much too occupied with doing all that he can to make sure that John lets go, again and again.

They separate their mouths and by a silent mutual agreement they put their hands on the other's pants when, in the sudden silence of the room, a noise—light as the air—resounds a bit farther away. Sherlock raises his head and they look at each other without daring to move anymore.

"What the..." but John can't finish his sentence as Sherlock's hands are already covering his mouth. With the free one, he presses a finger against his own lips to tell him to not make any noise.

Of course it's awkward to be found naked in a bed with the brother of the one who has stayed overnight, but it's even worse to be found by a stranger in his bedroom in which you're about to fuck. They're not moving, gazing into space, focused on the noise coming from the end of the corridor.

Click.

It's the noise of a lock which has been forced. Sherlock gets up with a feline speed and catches John's weapon in the pocket of his coat before the doctor has time to straighten up on at least his elbows. There is something terrible about seeing Sherlock with a weapon and it makes John nauseous; it's because the last time it happened, it stank of chlorine and there was a red point which slid like a snake over the detective's shirt.

John sticks against the wall behind his flatmate and puts a hand over his own mouth to prevent himself from making the slightest noise and it's crazy that the reflexes he learnt in Afghanistan can come to life in this apartment in the center of London.

There are steps walking toward them now, heavy and so slow. The steps don't even slow down in front of the kitchen or the living-room; the intruder knows they're in the bedroom. John has the reflex to close his forefinger against his palm but when he realises that once again both of their lives come down to the first phalanx of the detective, it's a simple prayer that occurs to him.

And the door opens and Sherlock springs out, snatched by a shape which attracts him in the corridor. John jumps up in his turn, hears before he sees his gun falling and congeals on the spot, seeing his flatmate stuck to the wall, caught by the throat by a muscular forearm:

"Gregory?"

"Bloody hell, what are you doing here?" the DI bawls.

"We came to see Sherrer's..."

"I said: what are you doing here?" he shouts again toward Sherlock and Sherlock only.

He doesn't release his forearm and if Sherlock still tries to escape from his influence, John begins to see his face coloring with a disturbing red.

"I had to see Sherrer's bedroom again!" the detective finally answers, struggling as much as he can.

"Sherlock told you this morning that we were coming here!"

"He told me but I did not say you could! Fuck, Sherlock, a neighbor saw you forcing the lock and called us, if I had not intercepted the call you would have been arrested as the two morons that you are and I can't have your back any more, you know that! It's over Sherlock, the case took too long, I'm not working on it anymore and you know what it means: you're not on it either! For Christ's sake and say that I risk my job for you!"

"Greg," John repeats, this time more seriously, because Sherlock doesn't even seem to have the strength to speak. His eyelids are quickly shaking.

"Months, it's been months that you're chasing after a murderer who was in the same room as you! What's going on with you, Sherlock, why can't you solve the case?" he roars, shaking the detective of whom he crushes the throat a bit more without hearing the doctor.

"Gregory, let him go!"

"S... Sibelius," Sherlock manages to choke. That has the effect of a slap on Lestrade, who finally seems to realize his gesture before releasing the detective who nearly collapses.

"Sorry," he sighs, moving back.

John approaches the detective to inspect his throat, even if Sherlock makes a sign to him that he's okay, and stays between the two men, afraid they might fight again. The air is so thick and heavy between them that John has the feeling he'd need a knife to pierce it. Greg and Sherlock are judging each other with their bulging eyes and they're pinching their lips to refrain from unleashing all the fury inspired by the other.

"Greg, is it true? You're not working on the case anymore?" John asks calmly, passing a hand over his sweaty forehead.

"At the end of the month yeah, the case will be given to another hub. We were too slow, plus with the press that got involved, it became political..."

"I don't understand why," John begins, but he's quickly stopped by the barkings of Lestrade which interrupt him:

"Why I'm losing my mind? John, do you know how long I've been protecting Sherlock? Centuries! And when a murder happens in front of him, and it takes him months to find the murderer? I might have been able to keep it under control if that imbecile hadn't decided to piss off the entire world at the same time! Did you know, Sherlock, that Doris Cox pressed charges against you for breaking into her place last month and that it's been weeks that I've been covering for you? And do you actually believe that I don't know that you were the one who falsified the prosecutor's request to free Steele from custody? And honestly, I would have been able to have your back a bit more if you had only proof, a testimony, anything, but you found nothing, Sherlock! It's gone too far, it has to stop."

John turns around to look at his flatmate, ready to ask him more about Steele's story, whom he apparently managed to release, but the detective has already raised a hand to explain, his voice a bit hoarse however:

"I know, Gregory. I only have three days left to resolve this case anyway."

"Order from the Queen?"

"Of course," Sherlock curses, raising his eyes to heaven.

There is a few seconds of hesitation and John looks at them alternately, not sure that they're speaking about the same person, but when he sees the discreet smile of Sherlock, he explodes in laughter, followed by his two friends. They need to release the pressure and they do nothing to calm themselves, and when the detective decides it's time to go he goes back to the bedroom to get his coat. John starts tidying up the mess they've made and when he feels Lestrate entering in his turn, he understands it might not have been the best idea to let him do so:

"What the hell happened here?"

John, on his knees among the crumbled scores, raises his face and realises his shirt is still opened and he's still wearing Sherlock's nails marks on his skin, which tortured him a few minutes ago. He opens his mouth, doesn't say a thing (first he has to find what he could possibly say) and turns his head to Sherlock, who doesn't seem any more comfortable than he does. The DI's eyes open slowly and very wide before he raises his two forefingers to hold everybody's attention.

"... Is it a joke? You? And you?" he almost grumbles, pointing at them alternately.

"Lestrade - concentrate - we are here to speak about Sherrer and it would be very impolite to speak about something else in this grieving room."

"But on the other hand it's completely okay to make out here?" the DI exclaims, perfectly shocked.

"No! No, we weren't, we didn't - nothing, we did nothing," John corrects, hands busy buttoning his shirt.

"Well, clean up this mess and let's get out of here. And, Sherlock," Lestrade doesn't finish his sentence but John raises his eyes in time to see him staring at the detective, who answers with a nod.

The doctor says nothing, tidying up as quickly as possible. Once the cardboard boxes are back where they found them, he puts on his jacket and follows both men, running away from the apartment.

"I hope you found something," Lestrade mutters.

"No," the detective answers very honestly, and it's officially the most bloody awful day of their lives.

"What do you want to do now, Sherlock?"

"The last thing we can do: a reconstruction."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone! I'm sorry for the late update, life has been crazy on my side lately. I hope you're all doing okay and ready for today's chapter as it's finally the revelation of who the murderer is! It's been more than a year since I started to think about this story and publishing today this chapter truly makes me shiver. I hope you'll like it as much as I liked to be obsessed by this case :)

Beta: The one, the unique Morwen Maranwe. Thank you so much, for everything, you know how I adore you.


What stands out when you set foot in the Royal Festival Hall for the first time is not the white lacquered ceiling, formed as waves which could have been cut by a knife. It's not the warm and yellow light which leaves little to the imagination. Neither is it the way the acoustics are conceived to wrap up most of the deafening noises to only highlight the purity of the best tuned instrument sound. What stands out when you enter the Royal Festival Hall is the smell of wood.

John raises his nose and observes the projectors aiming at the stage, covered by the musicians who are waiting. When he came here months ago, he didn't realise how much the smell of the surrounding wood breathes out a sort of warm and comforting aura where he feels he could take root in any of the beige armchairs. It's because back then, all that John saw was the extremely expensive suits in front of his own completely common person. It's not really the kind of things he notices anymore.

Hands in his pockets, he slowly walks along the chairs of the first row. A few meters away, the pianist asks one of his colleagues for a handkerchief. They're all murmuring and that makes John smile, he who understands why they're not at ease. He can't really blame them, Sherlock is a specialist when it comes to embarrassment. And it's even more stupid as the detective isn't in the room.

He and Sherlock had to wait three days so that Lestrade, with the help of the Royal Festival Hall, could organise this reconstruction in which all the members of the orchestra who were present the evening of the murder are participating, as well as the seven suspects who have taken their seats once again. There are also around thirty policemen, counting the ballistics team and the ones that are guarding the exits, in case there's an escape attempt. It's pretty rare but, according to Gregory, a culprit has already tried to escape after barely entering the crime scene.

On the other hand that would have been quite practical, but no, Doris and Benjamin Cox, Angie and Sheri Walsh, Jared Steele, Craig Jennings, and Anna Sanchez all entered the room at the same speed, then removed their jackets and bags from their shoulders before taking a seat as if they were ready to attend any representation.

Lestrade is settled on the back-scene, next to the suspects. He's hardly said a word since he arrived with his team. For sure, he had to play his last cards to authorise this reconstruction and, given the face he makes, he doesn't seem to believe they'll end up finding something. John can't blame him, either. He politely smiles at the DI, receives nothing in reply, then hides his stretched mouth behind his closed fist and pleads a sudden cough. God, what a bloody day this is.

There's also something the doctor can't explain, it's the presence of Anderson. He didn't work on this case and John has never heard Lestrade mention him. John eventually goes up on the set through the small staircase and gets closer to him.

"Is everything all right?" Not that he cares, but he has to start the conversation somewhere.

"Yes, of course," Anderson answers with his chin raised and his voice made nasally by dripping pride.

John nods once and doesn't rekindle the conversation; a delighted Anderson is never a good sign for the detective and John chose his camp a long time ago. He stays still near the forensic and looks at the stage before the shrill voice starts again:

"You know why Holmes asked me to come here, right?"

"Sherlock asked you to come?" John asks, eyebrows so high on his forehead that they seem ready to get lost in his fair hair.

"Of course. The failure of this case isn't a secret to anyone, especially at Scotland Yard. Holmes understood that it was about time that he calls on professionals, so, here I am."

The doctor nods again, this time to refrain from laughing, and pleads a call coming from the back-scene so that he can take off. Of course, Sherlock never could have asked Anderson to come because he needed his help, it's completely absurd, but John still doesn't have the slightest idea of what's going on. Everything's getting so weird.

He climbs the stairs on the left and gets closer to the suspects. On the last row, he recognises Sanchez, even if her hair grew and if she's wearing more make-up than their first meeting. She's still as friendly as a prison door nevertheless, so John doesn't insist. He expects to see Steele next to her but the man is a bit lower, close to Sheri Walsh, whose frail hand is in his. She's still an undeniable beauty with her fair skin and her eyes of a warm brown. She sits on the front row, her legs crossed in a gesture of infinite sophistication. Beside her, there's her sister in whom adolescence seems to still be blossoming. Angie cut her hair (possibly by herself, given the fact it's really not well done). But of course, they're living in London so no once notices those kind of physical particularities. What John doesn't miss, however, is her position: arms crossed and her back turned to not look at her sister and Steele. John looks at them, of course he doesn't mind (it's not his sister who's dating a man who could be her father) and even if he can't say what it is, precisely, he knows something has changed. Is she pregnant? In any case, the complexion of her skin is magnificent. A baby would definitely help for the visa request - because even if Sherlock forged the prosecutor's letter, Lestrade didn't say a thing about a regularisation of his status. John approaches the false couple and smiles:

"You should go back to your place, Steele, Sherlock will be here any minute."

"Do you know when we'll start? I have a meeting at the end of the day."

"Sherlock's coming," John repeats at the question from Sheri, even though he doesn't have the slightest idea.

Steele once nods and smiles at the young woman before going back up to his place. And this time it's obvious, John knows what changed: they fell in love.

He pinches his lips to keep from smiling and sees Benjamin's glittering gaze (apparently the only person excited to be here today). He quickly waves at him before turning around and putting his two hands on the golden rail. As the metronome beats a rhythm in the air, which almost seems to take on a life of its own, the snap of the back right door resounds in the impressive silence of the room.

John doesn't exactly see his lines but he recognises the black coat of the detective and doesn't refrain from smiling. The steps of the detective bang in rhythm against the wood. No one dares to speak now that he has arrived and this staging makes John want to laugh, which he only contains because Sherlock doesn't seem to have fun, at all.

If he should only speak in euphemism, John would say that the last three days in 221B were not very easy to manage. He would say that he thought boredom was Sherlock Holmes' worst enemy, but that's only because he never saw him walking along impatience. They barely exchanged five words and slept in their own bedrooms, even if their bodies touched more than once when meeting in the corridor or in front of the teapot. That was enough for John, who didn't want to add any more pressure on both of their lives.

Sherlock is now on the stage. With his hands behind his back, he gets through to the musicians by looking at them one by one. He tries to recognise them, John knows this because he often goes to the extremity of the scene to see the whole picture from the same angle as when they were in their seats, 14 and 15W. More than the half of the musicians are in town suits because it's still the afternoon and their next representation will not begin until 8 pm. That doesn't seem to disturb Sherlock who continues his inspection for about seven minutes before raising his voice towards the back-scene:

"Lestrade?"

The DI nods once and gets up from his seat to hold everyone's attention. He gives his usual speech at the beginning of a reconstruction, between legal and technical terms and specifies that everyone here has to follow Holmes' orders. Some heads nod to show their approval. That doesn't make the policemen blink but it makes Doris Cox, who still doesn't seem to carry the detective in her heart, sigh very loudly.

John sits down a bit farther and bends over the rail to look at the scene below him. Automatically, his eyes go to the only empty chair next to which sits a music stand and a horn. It's not the one Sherrer used to play, of course. This one rests, covered with blood, in Scotland Yard's basement.

"What are you going to play tonight?" Sherlock asks suddenly, pointing at the clarinetist.

"Dvorak, Symphony of the New World..."

"No, that's terribly boring," he curses as if he really had a word to say. That irritates John, whom eyes raise to heaven.

Tilted over the rail, he watches his flatmate stirring among the cellists, climbing on the grand piano, sliding under a chair, before going up to the back-scene. He walks on the armchairs when he goes back up the rows, walks past Lestrade without seeing him and rushes between Doris and Benjamin to put his face at their level.

"He-hello M-Mister Holmes!" Benjamin is enchanted, holding out a hand to greet him.

But Sherlock doesn't even seem to hear him as he already takes support on Jennings' head with his hand before coming to sit down next to him. John takes advantage of it to look at the father whom he didn't even salute. The man has a terrible look, a pale complexion and glassy eyes. Of course, he remembers it now, Jennings began a hunger strike to get back guardianship of his son. Even if Sherlock had presented the thing as a completely funny act, to see him so physically decreased saddens John more than he cares to admit. The detective sticks his cheek next to the badly shaved one and eventually pushes the man away to take his place to look at the scene from his point of view. Jennings doesn't say a thing and sighs hard, but that makes Doris burst, her who finally shouts:

"Easy! A bit of condolence cannot kill you, you know!"

And once more, sounds do not even seem to reach up to the brilliant brain because Sherlock contorts in his seat to try to see the musicians from all the possible angles, at the same time kicking the back of the seat where Angie Walsh is installed, who curses very vivid insults.

The atmosphere's getting so heavy that the air seems to become sticky and rushed into the lungs of all the present men and women here today. John doesn't realise it anymore, but his fist opens and closes on his right knee every time Sherlock almost crushes somebody. The detective still has to verify the first row, but he barely glances at the Walsh sisters, as if it's absolutely obvious that neither of them could be the murderer. He nevertheless turns his head in front of Sheri and stops all at once, then frowns and deciphers her for about three seconds before asking:

"Pregnant? Ah, no, you are..." but he doesn't finish his sentence and raises his look towards Steele before turning on his heels and coming down again up to the scene. "Where is Anderson?" he asks once among the musicians and the forensic raises a hand, a conceited smile on his lips. "Perfect, please take your place right here," Sherlock pursues, pointing at Sherrer's last chair.

The forensic frowns, looks around him bewildered, and walks with a ridiculous speed up to the chair, before resting the end of his buttocks as if he was afraid it could catch fire.

"Very well, we are about to begin..." Sherlock starts, quickly interrupted by Anderson's quavering voice.

"Wait, what do you want me to do?"

"The dead man," the detective answers, as a disconcerting obvious fact.

"What? N-no, why should I do that?"

"Because we need someone to represent Sherrer."

"No way! Mad as you are, you're really going to get me shot!" answers Anderson, already standing, ready to run away.

"Oh come on, Anderson, if we wanted to recreate the murder identically, I would have chosen a victim with a brain to explode."

The forensic gives a fake laugh and jumps up through the musicians by mumbling a series of no, no, no, no, which are grumbling like the rising thunder. If it has the merit to make Benjamin smile, John senses around him the rising tension. Lestrade is up on his feet, hands in his pockets, and he scrutinises the detective harshly. And if the witnesses are looking at each other, apparently bothered, the musicians bend toward each other to murmur words the doctor easily imagines are filled with awkwardness.

"Well, we lost enough time already!" John exclaims, banging his knees with his hands before getting up and going down to the scene where he settles down in his turn on the empty chair.

Sherlock looks at him without a word (at least, he seems to realise his presence here) and the atmosphere is more electric than ever while he hammers the polished wood of his inquisitive steps. No need to be his flatmate to understand that Sherlock's nerves are about to break. He turns around to look at their empty seats on the right balcony one last time before climbing on the small red platform and John almost chokes on an indignant laugh: Sherlock took the conductor's place.

"It is your directory of the month?" he asks pointing at the pad installed on a violinist's music stand.

"Yes," confirms the man as if he's spitting the word.

"What are you going to play?"

"Dvorak this evening, Tchaikovsky on Tuesday and Thursday, Liszt the week after, Paganini on..."

"Paganini, Concerto no°2 in B minor?"

"Yes."

"Very well, third movement," orders Sherlock, putting his hands on the rail of the feasible.

John's eyes raise to the sky. Good God.

"I beg your pardon?" asks the musician.

"You heard me very well, come on, third movement," Sherlock repeats by raising a hand, and this time it's too much.

The musicians still look at each other for a few seconds before the first violin noisily turns the pages of his pad to find the good score and starts without waiting, apparently out of patience. There's still a few seconds where only the sound of his violin resounds before he's finally joined by his colleagues. Lestrade turns on himself, Doris already got up to put on her coat and this time, John gives in:

"Sherlock, what are you doing?"

The detective doesn't answer, hands on the small metallic rail where he is held, eyes scanning those of the suspects. Lestrade apparently managed to convince Mrs. Cox to stay, because she's back in her chair next to her son, but both of them put on their jackets, ready to leave as soon as someone will give them the opportunity.

Around John, the melody ignites, he even grimaces because the strings next to him are drilling his eardrums, he has never been in the center of a playing orchestra.

"Sherlock," he calls, shyly raising a hand to try to have at least his visual attention, because it's likely that his voice will get lost in the melody which is invading the Royal Hall Festival with all its fanciful innocence.

At his feet, the doctor looks at the horn which the policemen put down, then farther up to two musicians with their arms crossed, looking at Sherlock with challenge while some of the violinists seem to stop even if their scores continue. Nevertheless, the music accelerates, catches the air for it alone, selfish thing that it is, until it pulls all the air outside of the soldier's lungs, who suffocates and suddenly stands up:

"Sherlock, for God's sake, what are you playing at?"

And this time, the air returns and the music chokes. John stands, fists tightened against his thighs, eyebrows furrowed and his mouth pinched. He looks at Sherlock and finally Sherlock also looks at him, eyes harpooning him without any pity.

"I'm making a reconstruction, John," he grumbles between his squeezed teeth.

"If they were playing Liszt when Sherrer was killed, then why are you asking them to play Paganini?"

"The air matters little."

"Well that's new! Since when do you leave anything at random?"

"Since all that I tried failed," Sherlock barely barks and that makes John's head push back by reflex.

There is no longer anyone in the Royal Festival Hall and the wood smell has disappeared. John only sees Sherlock, standing on the feasible and himself, standing next to the horn. They are in confrontation, soldiers of a war of which the armistice seems to rhyme with illusion.

"Can you concentrate on Sherrer, and Sherrer only, for once?"

"And what do you think I've been doing all this time?"

"Everything, you do everything you want! You'll do anything you can so that everything revolves around you and only you! You..." but John doesn't finish his sentence this time, for fear of releasing other words that he will regret.

He puts his tongue on his lips and Sherlock takes advantage of it to defend himself:

"I'm working, John, I'm working and that's it!"

"No, no, you only act to be the center of attention, but everybody's already looking at you, you won! I'm looking at you. And bloody hell it's so obvious, you want, literally, to run everybody with a rod of iron!"

"I don't want to run..."

"For God's sake, Sherlock, open your eyes, you're in the conductor's place!" John shouts with a crazy laugh and it's what definitively kinks the detective who roars through the room:

"Do you really believe that it is the conductor who controls everything? The power is in the hands of the musician because it is him who lets himself being guided!"

That has the effect of a slap to John, who sits down again immediately. Against his feet bangs the horn which he catches more by reflex than by real desire, before putting it on his knees. He watches his own reflection in the copper of the instrument, and seeing himself gives him the concrete proof that it's to him that Sherlock spoke. And even if the words were very clear and were pointing to the musicians, John can only feel in his flesh the echo of this sentence in their own life, on his own control, the one that he gave to Sherlock. The one that he decided to give to Sherlock.

He raises his head, ready to apologise for shouting, but is stopped by Sherlock's vision, still on the stage, body turned to the doctor, eyes rolled upwards and his hands white from clenching so hard on the rail.

"That's it... That's exactly it," he murmurs, hardly perceptible.

"Sherlock, sorry I shouted..."

"The conductor... It doesn't make sense," he sighs and this time, John doesn't hear him.

"Eh?"

"It doesn't make sense, John," the detective repeats before raising his face towards the suspects. "Look at them, they weren't able to kill him. They didn't kill him," he corrects.

This time, John turns his head to look behind him at the back-scene and remembers the presence of the suspects.

"What? But the ballistics said that..."

"That the bullet touched the back of the skull, of course we saw that ourselves. But if Sherrer wasn't looking at his score, he wasn't looking at the conductor either. John, what do you see in the horn?" asks Sherlock, pointing at the instrument. Even if this time the detective speaks with a clear voice, it's enough to stop the doctor's heartbeat, only one second.

Because here they are. Sherlock is deducing.

"Nothing... Well, me. My reflection. A bit twisted, but it's my reflection. But why would Sherrer have been looking at himself?"

John raises his head and Sherlock still keeps his eyes fixed on him. He put his hands in front of his mouth and there's something painful in his gaze. It is with a voice of an imperial peace that Sherlock finally understands:

"Because it is not a murder, but a suicide."

John breathes in, for a long time, hard, until his trachea burns and his head pounds. On his right knee, there's the horn which he's holding. To look at his reflection in the instrument this way, he doesn't have his head in the axis and slightly lowered as if he's reading a score. He neither has his head straight as if he's following the conductor. He turns it on his right and finds himself in the same position as Sherrer, months ago, when the musician looked at his reflection for the last time. He suddenly feels a light pressure against the back of his head and realises Sherlock came to his left and put his forefinger on the skull where the bullet drilled into Sherrer's.

"The killer wasn't placed in the back-scene," concludes Sherlock before stretching out his left hand to draw the trajectory of the missile in the air.

At the end of the finger, John recognises their seats.

"Sherlock, what..."

"Could you stop gesticulating? I can't see a thing. It's what the man who was sitting behind us said. Who needs to see anything this badly at a concert?"

John puts down the horn with a medical precaution and gets up in his turn to look at their empty seats, a few meters from there.

"... A guy who is getting ready to shoot," he pursues in a deafening voice. "Wait, Sherlock, it's a..."

"Staging. Complete. Total," concludes the detective before lowering his finger and advancing on the edge of the scene, closely followed by his flatmate. "Sherrer staged his own death. He's making fun of us. Since the beginning."

"But there's somebody who helped him with all this and somebody who pressed the bloody trigger. Sherlock, who can like this... death's theatricality so much?"

They stand and face each other for the first time on this scene of the Royal Festival Hall, before understanding with the same voice:

"Moriarty."

Chapter Text

Note: Hi everyone, I hope you're all doing fine. Huuuuuge thanks for today's chapter as it's the lovely RedHooded who translated it and once again Morwen Maranwe who corrected it! You girls are the best, thank you so much for your time and support :)
As for you, dear readers, I hope you'll like today's chapter and if so don't hesitate in writing a comment! It does motivate a lot.


"Touché."

John raises his head from his newspaper and looks to his right, the wall covered with the proof settled by Sherlock and Benjamin, where the suspects' photos have been ripped out last night. There's only Sherrer's pictures left, with and without his open skull, covered with a series of darts that the detective has been throwing since the beginning of the morning.

Since yesterday, when they both looked at their empty chairs, understanding that the killer was sitting behind them, Sherlock has been navigating on unpredictable waters where a wave full of dark anger is followed by another carrying him in an excitement that seems limitless. Fortunately, Lestrade went down the back scene before the detective left and even if it had been hard to explain their discovery between the excitement of the detective and the lack of synthesis from John, the DI apparently saw in their eyes the same reflection as the chlorinated water from the pool. He then called his hierarchy to tell them this bloody news: Moriarty is back.

John has an appointment at Scotland Yard at noon, to talk to Lestrade and a Swiss leader of the secret services about the surveillance of Moriarty these last months. Sherlock won't go, of course, because he doesn't see the point of such a meeting and, by the precision with which his darts touch the middle of Sherrer's forehead, John won't insist for him to join.

"He said so, however."

"What?" John asks, getting out of his thoughts.

"Moriarty, he told me: we'll see each other soon," Sherlock explains very calmly, up on the couch, removing the darts fixed in the wall, before getting back into position to aim, this time at the musician's eyes.

"Yeah, well, this is typically the kind of thing I say when I come across someone I don't want to see again: we'll meet soon anyway!" John grants, folding his newspaper, before getting up in turn.

"That's because you leave things to chance. Not him."

John gives a sad smile and comes near his friend, both hands in the back pockets of his jeans. He looks at the darts sticking out Sherrer's dark brown eyes, him who's smiling, teasing them, in this official photo of the orchestra, and there's something pleasant-looking at the tips piercing his radiant face.

"This vents the frustration, you know."

"I don't doubt that," the doctor answers, accepting a handful of darts which Sherlock gives him with pleasure before aiming at the face of the musician - but he only hits the collar of the shirt.

"I have been thinking about it all night. Everything, absolutely everything that we have discovered about him taught us that Sherrer wanted to be… the centre of attention, at least once in his life. The first mistake was to believe that his occupation as an unsuccessful actor was just a hobby and didn't have any incidence on his life, and that it would be better to remember him as a musician from the London orchestra."

This time, John hits the lobe of Sherrer's ear and turns towards his flatmate, a light pout distorting his face. Sherlock's lips pinch, very conscious that he's being observed. He throws a dart and turns to face him before correcting:

"My first mistake."

The doctor has a half smile and Sherlock nods once before walking into the living room.

"Anna Sanchez told us that he loved surrounding himself with people and that he spoke, a lot. She insisted on this word, remember? Yet all the received letters that we read were at least seven years old. Sherrer didn't have any friends, he just wanted to be the centre of attention."

"I think we can say that he nailed it."

"Precisely," Sherlock grants, pointing his finger at the doctor for one second before repositioning his hands on his back. "That's the worst part of this story, by the way."

The detective breathes in loudly and John, up on the cliff, sees the wave of anger gathering near the boat where Sherlock heaves dangerously.

"Do you remember that picture you observed the first time we went to Sherrer's place? He was wearing a beige costume with branches sewn on it and a leaf crown? He was interpreting Pyramus in A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, one of the most known suicides of the theatre. And this costume of Hamlet, the most iconic tragic character: even in his roles Sherrer was morbid."

John jumps when he feels his phone vibrating in the front pocket of his jeans, and he pulls it out just enough to see a message from Lestrade asking him if he wants a car patrolling nearby to come and pick him up. He answers negatively before getting his jacket off the hook behind the door.

"I have to go, I will tell you what the Swiss have to say."

"That will not be useful," Sherlock answers very naturally, waving his hand.

"Lestrade insisted…" John sighs, getting his key.

He quickly turns on himself to check that he didn't forget anything and looks at Sherlock for many long seconds, trying to contain his words:

"Sherlock, I wanted to tell you…"

The detective doesn't move and tilts his head, intrigued by the tone of the doctor. He doesn't say anything and frowns slightly, so John resumes:

"What happened between us… What is happening between us. I would never have... slept with you without having… guarantees, you know."

Sherlock's left eyebrow slowly raises and, even if this conversation doesn't have much to do with this suicide story or Moriarty, John wants to talk about it:

"That like… I don't know… I never would have done a parachute jump without a parachute."

"Amusing, the way you compare having an intimate relationship with a potentially deadly activity," Sherlock quietly smiles.

"That's not the way you see it?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I trust you."

"I'm sure I'd be a terrible parachute."

"Given the size of your jumpers, you have your chances."

John lightly shakes his head and smiles, and Sherlock can only do the same. There's something unique happening in the living room of 221B this morning and John knows why: for the first time, he feels that Sherlock and he are on the same wavelength. Together.

"Okay I really need to go now. I don't want to be late in front of a Helvetic delegate."

"Of course not, you would start a diplomatic incident."

"See you tonight."

Sherlock smiles one last time and that simple movement of his lips leaves a red-hot iron track on John's mind, who only thinks about the kiss he should have blown on it.


He won't tell him right now, but of course Sherlock was right. The meeting was not useful and started badly when John asked Monsieur Mortier if he brought chocolate, which blew a chill in the room worthy of the highest mount of the Alps Mountain. They all talked for two hours, to discuss the surveillance of Moriarty which, apparently, didn't go as well as expected; all of that to understand that they can't tell with certainty if the criminal is still in the canton of Aargau today. Lestrade held all his anger in and his cheeks redden from the effort, and John had to wait to go up on the roof to see the DI smoke and explode at the same time. Of course, Interpol is aware of Moriarty's actions and the frontiers are being watched, but Lestrade emitted the hypothesis that he'll build a team himself to go to Switzerland to research the criminal. John promised to talk about it to Sherlock when he got back home.

When he leaves Scotland Yard, he hesitates between taking the Northern line to join the Marie Stopes centre, near Fitzroy square, in which he still didn't postulate. When he was studying at Bart's, he came across young women dreaming about deepening their knowledge there and, even though he chose the path of gunpowder, he now understands this craze for this institution where he distinctly sees himself passing a couple of years. He's convinced that, in the Marie Stopes centre, he won't ever meet a chief like Barrow again.

But there's a light and fresh wind that pushes him to walk, and he thinks: why not go do some shopping too? Mrs. Hudson is always complaining about her vacuum which makes too much noise, he could buy her a new one. The truth is, it's Sherlock who's complaining about the "continuous thunder of this devil tool" which prevents him from thinking. Even if his finances are not in excellent shape, John wants to offer his landlady the possibility to stop breaking her back every time she drags the vacuum up the two floors to 221B.

Anyway, he doesn't have to think for very long because a black sedan with tinted windows stops in front of him. The back left window opens and John leans forward to discover an Asian woman with hair cut so short that she seems bald, her eyes painted with a deep black, which he could see better if they weren't fixed on the phone between her hands.

"Anthea number 2, I presume?"

"Actually it's number 16," she corrects without raising her eyes.

"Wonderful," the doctor sighs before opening the door and taking a seat. Goodbye Marie Stropes.

The window closes automatically and the car starts to roll in the light traffic during the middle of day. The skirt of the new Anthea is so short that John's eyes lay on the unveiled skin one second too long. When he crosses the offending (and offended) look of the young woman, he quickly turns his face to look through the window.

"Where are we going?"

"Mr. Holmes said that you would ask that question."

"And what else did he say?"

"That you'd try to get my phone number."

"Ah, Mr. Holmes isn't always right then," he smiles, more than proud to prove Mycroft's wrong.

"And that you'd watch my legs."

This time, his smile completely disappears.

They drive without a word for twenty minutes, which are as long as they are boring, before the car parks in a vacant lot. It's really embarrassing because John already went through this staging, so he sighs more than anything and doesn't even salute Anthea n°16 before slamming the door behind him and entering the red brick building. It must be an ancient slaughterhouse, judging from the rails fixed to the ceiling and the hooks hanging on them. There's also the smell of petrol and paint tracks a bit further near the gigantic metallic door, so John doesn't have to think too hard to understand that this place is a refuge used to disguise stolen cars too. The staging is simply grotesque.

"Very subtle," he smiles to Mycroft, who is on his feet in the middle of the empty warehouse.

"Doctor Watson, I am glad to see that you could find some time to meet with me."

"Yes, I'm here willingly," he says ironically, looking above him at the neon lights covered with dust.

"I heard that you are finally on the track of the musician's murderer – well, suicide I should say."

"Moriarty," John confirms, even if he hates rolling the word on his tongue.

"It seems that my brother has the annoying tendency to attract people in a very unrespectable way."

John strains, clenching his hands into fists against his thighs, and the condescending look of the oldest Holmes is enough to make him understand the real subject of this little meeting.

"I am talking about you."

"Yes, I figured that out by myself, thank you," he barks inadvertently.

"What relationship do you have with my brother, exactly, Doctor Watson?"

"Well, we are flatmates, as you may know," he answers with more animosity than he wants to let appear.

"Flatmates, what a catch-all word, don't you think?"

"Mycroft, listen, I…"

"No, John, you are going to listen. You might think that Sherlock is the kind of man of whom you can enjoy the company for a while before moving to something else, but you couldn't be more wrong. How do you think Sherlock became what he is today? By flirting here and there, enjoying some… company, when he wants it? You don't live in the same world as us, John. Sherlock and I don't play this game, the game of… feelings," Mycroft drops with a voice much less controlled than usual and, for the first time, John feels like he faces a human being.

"So, I don't know what Sherlock promised to you, but, believe me, he already tried to handle a relationship and it lead to nothing."

"If you think you'll shock me by suggesting that he and Gregory Lestrade had a relationship, don't bother," John protests, shrugging. Even if he's bluffing, it seems to work.

This time, it is all of Mycroft's body that tenses. His jaw tightens and John can see it through the thin skin that unveils the tension of his muscles. Of course he never had any confirmation, but by living with Sherlock Holmes, the art of deduction ended up making it's way to his brain, and he'd have been really blind to not understand Lestrade's interest in the detective: from Sherlock's way of saying that he always hated his sofa and the power of the world Sibelius which slammed into the air with the same intensity as the word Champagne.

"What do you want, Mycroft?" Johns asks, already exhausted by this ridiculous meeting.

"For you to stop what's happening between you and my brother. Whatever is going on. That goes beyond Baker Street, and for the good sake of everybody, I would ask you to follow me. We will leave by the back door of this building and I will take you to a safe place, until this whole story settles down."

There's no noise in this warehouse but John doesn't feel peaceful at all. He doesn't understand this situation, doesn't want to be here, and doesn't want to hear that. He shakes his head despite himself and can't possibly explain how much he can't stop what's happening between Sherlock and him. Mycroft would not understand. Even John had trouble understanding.

"I can't let you decide for me, Mycroft."

"Trust me."

"I can't do that either," he smiles despite himself and that makes Mycroft tenses even more.

"John…"

"I know what you're going to say, that it's the best thing to do, and maybe even tell me that this is the most respectable choice, right? Four months ago I would have believed you, but…" he smiles, shrugs, and explains in the most natural way possible, "that's not what I want."

"You don't understand," Mycroft prevents once more, with a voice announcing a storm.

"No, believe me, you don't understand. You can't force me to accept."

Mycroft breathes in through his nose, hits the tip of his umbrella on the damaged concrete and grants, in a voice torn with an obvious fury:

"Well I won't force you, then. But this is the last time I'm warning you: for the sake of everybody, follow me."

"Goodbye, Mycroft," John smiles one last time with a polite sign of the head before turning his heels.

His steps resonate on the concrete of the empty warehouse and he breathes normally because, no matter the vain warnings of Mycroft, John makes his own decisions. He opens the gigantic metallic door which squeaks enough to give him goose bumps and goes out into the empty courtyard which the sun invades. He lays a hand above his eyes to protect them from it and wants to think about which way he has to take now, but his arms are still shivering and there's a strange weight pressing his plexus.

He lowers his hand and raises his nose, and he looks around himself at the three buildings in ruins, where the broken windows let him perceive the walls which are filled with graffiti. Standing there in the middle of nothing, he as the putrid impression of a musician in the centre of a stage that is giving him nausea. A second, then two, pass before he finally understands and tries to take a steps backwards, but the pain is already there and burns his left shoulder. John turns his face and sees his jacket impregnate with his own blood, and dammit, no, not again.

He raises his right hand to press on the wound but there he is, already fallen on his knees. In his mind only one word resonates as he faints: touché.

Chapter Text

Note: Oh gosh. Almost one year since the last update, I'm so sorry everyone. But as promised, this fic isn't abandoned and I'll try to update the 5 remaining chapters asap! Thank you for your support and a huge thanks to treetop for her amazing comments that pushed me to translate this chapter (the first half has been translated by Thelxinoe, thank you so much!).
Also, I don't have a beta anymore on this story so I'm sorry in advance for the possible mistakes!


 

John wipes his right hand over his wet forehead and over his eyes, which he firmly massages so as to wake up. With the heat, the splint set on his left arm is even more stifling.  The medicine helps him bear with the pain of his broken shoulder, but makes him feel woozy and exhausted by the dizziness. At least he is conscious, which wasn’t quite the case when he arrived at the hospital yesterday.

He has only flashes but he sees himself being carried in an ambulance. He remembers being asked his name, and answering Marie Stopes, because that was where he had intended to go, but he fainted before correcting himself. He was woken up in the night by a bloody pain in his neck and an imperious need to let out what upset his heart. His thumb had crushed the remote set on his bed, and when the nurse came, holding out a bowl, he finally understood as he threw up, that it wasn’t his heart which was upset, it was his stomach. That was how he knew he had had surgery – bloody anaesthetic. He would have wished to give his name, but once more, his eyes closed before his lips even opened.

He feels he is slowly regaining consciousness, and even if he has asked three times that his flatmate be warned, he is still alone in his room, and patience isn’t one of his prime virtues. His eyes are riveted to the clock, which indicates 2.37pm; Sherlock must be worried to death.

“Flipping heck you’re here…”

John turns his head and sees Lestrade come in, his forehead as glistening as his, his breath short, his jacket in his hand.

“How did you find me?”

“Sherlock called me last night to tell me you weren’t back. We called every hospital in the vicinity.”

The inspector slams the door behind him and pulls a plastic chair to sit next to the doctor, whom he scrutinizes with worried eyes.

“What happened?”

“I got shot,” he replies in an exaggerate obviousness, as if those things were only too common – but that is almost the case and his irony falls flat.

“You were found in a Wembley wasteland, so I’ve been told. What were you doing there?”

“I was meeting with Mycroft Holmes… who threatened me before shooting at me.”

“Why did he threaten you?”

“Can we talk about it later?”

“Yeah. I’ll give you a lift to Baker Street.”

“Can I check out?”

“Sherlock made me swear I’d bring you back as fast as possible. The hospital isn’t secure enough, which means you’ll get a nurse to care for you at Baker Street.  Aren’t you a lucky chap?”

DI Lestrade smiles to ease the atmosphere and pats his friend’s leg before going out of the room.

Two nurses come to help John dress, even if he waves them away, and he gathers the rest of his stuff in a plastic bag.  He then joins Lestrade in the hallway and the both of them walk towards the car park without a word.

“Is it painful?” asks the older man while opening the left front door of his car.

“As much as the time I was shot in Afghanistan. At least I’ll have symmetrical scars now.”

“Mycroft is such a dickhead.”

John doesn’t need to nod; this is obvious.

“If you want to throw up, just warn me so I have time to park, alright?” worries Lestrade, sneaking side glances as the Astra Vauxhall starts to move.

“No, I’m fine. It’s just…” he begins, but shakes his head, unable to find a word to explain the situation.

“It’s fucked up.”

“Exactly. At the beginning of the week, I still suspected Angie Walsh had knocked off Sherrer, and everything revolved around those seven suspects. Today, Moriarty – who cannot be pinpointed on a bloody map, great –  is a person of interest, Sherrer’s suddenly the bastard who had us on a wild goose chase for months and Mycroft is trying to knock me off.”

“I don’t think he intended to kill you. Well, you said so yourself, you were shot in the shoulder, at the same place where…”

“Yeah, I know. Figure of speech.”

John falls silent as he attempts to cross his arms against his chest but grimaces when he moves his splinted arm only by an inch.

Lestrade frowns in compassion, and doesn’t dare utter a word until they reach Baker Street. He lets John get out of the car and tries to find parking place. He briefed him beforehand: the attack is to be kept secret not to scare the wits out of Mrs Hudson and their relatives, and John is certainly not going to complain about that .

Incidentally, she is waiting for him on the front steps. Arms open, she welcomes him in an embrace,  being careful of his injury, and warmly pecks him on the cheeks before leading him to the living-room on the first floor. She rages on and on about road hogs, since Lestrade told her that John got run over, surprised he didn’t stay longer at the hospital. But he hardly listens to her and asks, as he gazes towards the two empty armchairs by the fireplace:

“Where is Sherlock?”

“At his brother’s. He told me he would pay him an impromptu visit, how adorable is that? I’m glad he’s making an effort for things to go well between them,” smiles the landlady as she comes out of the kitchen with a cup of tea she hands to the doctor.

Despite himself, he smiles (one of his typically Watsonian smiles where the left corner rises and freezes in a grin masking every swear words in his repertoire), and, with his valid hand, seizes the cup before sitting on the sofa. He doesn’t remain straight very long: already he is lying down, closing his eyes, promising himself to rest just a few seconds. Of course, he falls into slumber just as rapidly.

When John wakes up from a nap as deep as the circles under his eyes, he drinks Mrs Hudson’s cold tea. She is downstairs baking a cake, even if he told her repeatedly that he wasn’t hungry, and Lestrade is sitting next to him on a chair he brought closer to him, reading a book he found in Sherlock’s library about the different sorts of inks.

“Is it any interesting?” asks John, vaguely stretching to crack his back.

“Not in the least,” answers the inspector, slamming the book before pushing it away.

“Go. You have other things to do…”

“I’m staying with you until Sherlock comes back.”

“Because he asked you to?”

“And because I don’t want to leave you on your own.”

John smiles and nods slightly. They’re alone upstairs, and it’s high time they talked. The painkillers may help him overcome his inhibitions, but most of all, he is fed up with leaping from one clue to the next without them having an honest conversation. Dammit, he feels like his life is an episode from Lost .

“Greg… I wanted to tell you… I know.”

“You know...” repeats the policeman, eyebrow raised, clearly not reading his friend’s innuendoes.

“About you and Sherlock. I know you two dated.”

Lestrade’s eyes widen and he straightens up on his seat, but John goes on rapidly:

“Of course Sherlock has had affairs before m…  I mean he’s experienced. And you were living together. With all this stuff about Elisa, I realised that you two liked the same… things . It would be only logical you had slept together,” he whispers as low as possible not to bring attention to them, because it’s out of the question that Mrs Hudson even dreams of butting in at such moment.

No, ” Lestrade almost barks, his upright finger between their bodies, and it is clear from his voice that Gregory Lestrade is a Dominator. “I have no idea how you can come up with such crap, but Sherlock and I never dated, is that clear? We lived together for about two years, but nothing happened…  Well, something almost did, once, but that’s all.”

Something almost did? How can that be?” asks John in a confused chortle.

“Sherlock would kill me if I told you.”

“Sherlock will still figure out an occasion to kill you, so tell me.”

It’s warm in this living-room of which Greg refuses to open the windows (for safety) and fuck John was only supposed to binge on painkillers and sleep, the DI wasn’t expecting this conversation to happen.

“Bloody hell…” he concludes before leaning to John. “A few years ago I worked on a case for Mycroft Holmes. I screwed up, I was on the sideline and ready to spend ten years on traffic control and Mycroft took advantage of it to blackmail me: I was supposed to take care of his little brother who had just come out of rehab and in exchange he was doing his best to promote me to be a DI. Luckily, Sherlock and I got along, it was weeks after my divorce so I was actually glad to have someone home. I took him with me on the field, I also taught him to say Thank you and Please too, but that’s another topic.Then this jerk started to follow me when I was going out, without me noticing it, of course. Anyway, when he understood I had different penchants and that I wasn’t the kind to bother with vanilla sex, he started to ask me so many questions about dom and subs, what is okay to do and what is not… That’s how I teached him about BDSM. It was purely theoretical. We spent months like this. I think that’s what got him to gain interest on crimes of passion and started to understand the mechanic of the sentiments. And one night, the theory went out of control and he told me he wanted to practice. We thought it would work, me as his Dom and him as my Sub, and…”

“And what?” John whispers, breaking up his syllables as if he was biting air.

“It was ridiculous. A catastrophy. We almost broke each other’s nose when we kissed, plus he kept asking question, which was turning me on as much as vacuuming does. You have no idea, John, how much this night is the quintessence of the most awkward night there is. Well, maybe - maybe - it could have worked if I didn’t… use the wrong name. I called him Miranda.”

Miranda ,” John repeats to be sure he got it right.

“Yes, my ex-wife’s name. I was taking his clothes off and the kept chattering about hormones we were about to develop or another stupid thing like this. I was trying to make him shut up when that Freudian slip happened.”

“Wait, that’s why he uses the wrong name anytime he sees you? It’s voluntary?”

“Have I ever told you how brave you are for tolerate living with him?” Lestrade smiles as extremely tired by this story. “He moved a few days later and we never talked about it again. It was a huge mistake from me to thought he could submit. It requests a lot of courage to submit to anyone and it’s simply not who he is.”

John sighs and nods. Focused on Lestrade’s story, he forgot about the pain and the tiredness. He shivers and stretches out a hand to his tea of which he’s swallowing the bitter end.

“John, please don’t…”

“I know, I won’t tell him anything.”

“Because if knows and doesn’t kill me himself, Mycroft will by learning it’s I who teached his brother to use a riding crop. But don’t judge Sherlock, okay? Despite everything I can say… he’s a good guy, you know.”

“I know.”

“It’s hard to find somebody with whom you can really be yourself when you’re into that kind of lifestyle. For a Dom as for Sub, for that matter,” he smiles one last time before standing up to fill their cups in the kitchen. “It’s a matter of trust, really. The day Sherlock Holmes will trust someone, I think he’ll finally accept himself.”

John waits that is friend is in the kitchen to rubs his face persistently. Lestrade used words like trust, himself and accept and they are resonating in him, bouncing in his ribcage, going up to his head and finds the natural path to the only name he thinks about since he was waiting alone in the waste ground: Sherlock.

“John?”

“Yes?” he quickly answers, raising him and pulling a face when his shoulder leave the sofa, to join him.

“Since when does Sherlock offer you flowers?” he asks.

They’re both staring at a bouquet in a measuring cup as they don’t own any vase. John is not an expert but it seems to be a bouquet of wildflowers, violet and mauve, attached by a thin string, among which there’s a card that John picks up with his valid hand.

I’m sorry you got shot because of me ,” he reads out loud, stunned.

“Well, Sherlock Holmes is a romantic in the end,” Lestrade laughs, standing next to John to take a look at the card.

They stay silent even if John feels Greg’s stare on him, absolutely waiting to talk about what is happening between the both of them (as it’s clear he understood) but John is really not ready for that talk so he goes back to the living-room, ready to fall back asleep on the couch when Molly and her boyfriend ( wait, what’s his name again? ) enter with a short breath and red cheeks.

“John! Oh my God, are you okay? Mrs. Hudson told me you had a car accident?” Molly exclaims, kissing his cheek and it’s officially the first time they touch each other.

He nods awkwardly, mumble a few words to insult the fictional driver and shakes Sorry-mate-I-don’t-remember-your-name’s hand.

“You didn’t have to come.”

“Are you kidding? Of course we had to. Thank you Andy,” she smiles to her boyfriend when he helps taking off her jacket.

Ah, Andy, of course.

Molly starts to ask precise questions to which John didn’t have time to think about so he makes up a story that seems credible and tries by any way possible to not think about the taste of dirt which invaded his mouth when he felt in the wasteland. Mrs. Hudson comes out in her turn with bakeries she did. They all talk about her cooking now and if it reassures John the first minutes, it soon tire him. He lets them talk and sits on his chair, absolutely washed-up, but incapable of closing his eyes now that they’re staring at the leather armchair in front of him.

Where the hell is Sherlock? John may be filled with corticoide he still thinks about the detective only and about the meeting that is probably taking place right now with his brother. He’s thinking about all of this mess when Mrs. Houdson’s voice become suddenly strident and says the only word the doctor was waiting for:

“Ah, Sherlock!”

John turns around as if lightning has touched him and Sherlock is here and John breathes. Sherlock ignores everyone, fixes his eyes on his roommate’s and gets closer by five steps before kneeling before him. He raises his hands, ready to put them on John’s, but stops a few inches away and rests them on the armrests instead.

“Are you okay?” he whispers so low that John has the feeling his heart stopped beating for one second to hear him.

“Better now,” he answers and it’s true.

It’s like Christmas Eve because there’s so close that John has the feeling their body could merge. It comes from the bottom of his soul, his lips feel so naked he only wants to dress them with Sherlock’s kisses, his mouth, his tongue and words. He wets his lips by reflex and the way the detective’s eyes are devouring him echoes his own desire.

“Sherlock, John, I have to get back to Scotland Yard. Call me if you discover anything new about Moriarty, all right?” Lestrade says, standing next to them.

They turn their heads at the same time and the desire that is burning inside of them is gone from their pupils. They nod and John smiles more than ever:

“Thank you.”

“Thank you, Greg,” Sherlock says in his turn, without noticing the knowing smile they share.

He greets them, kisses Mrs. Hudson’s cheek and leaves. Sherlock stands up and theatrically turns around without even noticing it (that’s the worst part of it, he doesn’t even realise he does so) and walks to the bathroom, followed by John. Andy is telling Mrs. Hudson how the dirt caused by the renovation works at the Royal Observatory of Greenwich is daily damaging his asphodel shoots but John barely hears them as he’s entering the room and feels Sherlock catching him by his valid shoulders before putting him against a wall. He kisses him harshly and against his lips, John recognizes the taste of fear. They don’t even close the door and uses each other’s mouth to cover their moans. Sherlock is pressing his body with his own and it’s killing his shoulder - he couldn’t care less. With his valid hand, he holds the detective’s neck and firmly holds it to be sure Sherlock won’t leave.

“Plus, as Wednesday we had children who came to visit the Royal Observatory, they stamped a sprout imported from Greece even if I did tell the director we needed a gate to prevent them from coming too close from the flowers…”

They hear them, a few meters away but ignore them as Sherlock is nibbling John’s bottom lip. Sherlock’s left hand raises to encircle his jaw and forces him to keep his mouth opened while he licks his tongue and the insides of his cheeks and never a kiss between them has ever been this obscene. John’s hand slide to his lover’s shoulder and he moans when Sherlock’s teeth close on his bottom lip. It feels like a punishment and John lets himself be pushed around.

“Sherlock? John? Is everything alright?”

The detective lets go of the bitten lip, licks his own and doesn’t stop staring at John while he answers their landlady, raising his voice.

“Everything is alright, Mrs. Hudson.”  

“Do you want some cake?”

“Sure, why not,” he lies, rolling his eyes, to make her shut up.

He presses his thumb on John’s bottom lip and almost growls:

“Never frighten me again like this.”

“I guess that’s what you told your brother.”

Sherlock pulls a face and goes to the kitchen, followed by John with ruffled hair.

“Mycroft isn’t the one who ordered the firing.”

“Sherlock, he’s the one who dragged me twenty kilometers from there, he threatened be to follow him, he…”

“I know, John, we talked about it for fours. But he didn’t place any snipers. Since the reconstitution at the Royal Festival Hall he hired henchmen to protect us and one of them noticed you were being followed, the morning you went to Scotland Yard. He wanted to get you out of London to protect you and…”

“And it worked perfectly, I’m well placed to know that,” John says with irony, looking at the splint which is pressing his arm against his chest.

He opens his lips again, ready to ask Sherlock if (his stomach hurts by simply thinking about this name) Moriarty could be responsible for all this, when Andy enters the kitchen in his turn with empty cups he apparently wants to fill.

“Oh! What a splendid bouquet, it’s rare to find those kind of flowers in London!” he says with delight.

John and Sherlock steps back by reflex, as their body were almost touching and John smiles as much as he can before he answers:

“Yeah, Sherlock… bought them for me for my car accident.”

“What bouquet?” he asks, wrinkling his nose.

“The flowers, there,” John answers, pointing the measuring cup.

“I didn’t buy you any flowers.”

They stay silent for at least five seconds, the time their mind need to put everything in order, and suddenly, they don’t have to pretend everything is fine anymore:

“Do you know those flowers?” Sherlock asks, turning to face Andy without trying to calm the adrenaline boiling in him.

“Well, yeah… those are Reichenbach Violets. I know because he make them grow near the Royal Observatory - and it’s a miracle it’s working as the climate here isn’t adapted for this kind of plants.”

John and Sherlock look at each other, understand, and it’s not smelling like ginger tea in the kitchen anymore but like chlorine.

Bloody hell.

“But as I was telling Mrs. Hudson, there are renovation works at the observatory this week so you can’t visit it…” he adds, slightly confused by their reaction.

“What does the card say?” Sherlock asks, fixing John with his crystal-clear eyes.

I’m sorry you got shot because of me, ” he repeats, swallowing, and this time there’s Moriarty’s voice in his head reading those words and everything makes sense.

Sherlock breathes in and leaves the kitchen. John quickly follows him and catches him by the arm in the stairs he’s ready to hurtle down.

“Where are you going?”

“To the Royal Observatory.”

“To meet up with Moriarty? Alone ?”

“You stay here,” Sherlock decreets with a hard voice.

John has a strangled laugh and tries to go downstairs but Sherlock blocks the way with his body. They both look at each other without any hesitation or fissure and this is a silent fight which is happening right now.

“It’s an order,” Sherlock says coldly.

Champagne ,” John answers and the fight is over.

Sherlock’s mouth get tensed while it’s holding back words he knows he can’t tell, and finally they both leave the 221B. In the street, they stop the first taxi they see and give him the address to the Royal Observatory.

 

Chapter Text

Note: Funny how you think you can trust technology and then one day you wake up and look at the finished chapter on the application Notes of your iPhone and -surprise!- all the notes have been erased. Yeah, so apparently it does happen a lot, so if you have important notes, you might want to save them, guys! Anyway, I didn't want to more around, especially because of all your amazing support on the last update, so I rolled up my sleeve and I translated this chapter AGAIN and here it is!
Once again, sadly, I don't have a beta and English isn't my first language so I'm sorry for the mistakes.


 

It takes an infinite time to cross the city from North to South, to slalom between the taxis, the cyclists and the European tourists who are crossing over even when the traffic light is red. The night is falling and the lights are rising. John rests his forehead against the window of their cab and he looks without seeing. Is Moriarty back in his snipers delirium or has he attached dynamite to some poor guy's belt? Are him and Sherlock making a terrible mistake by going to face him?

 

"Sherlock."

 

"John."

 

They call each other at the exact same time, turning their head to the other. They share a smile and John nods to tell his flatmate he can continue.

 

"How are you feeling?"

 

"Regarding my shoulder which is killing me or the fear eating up my stomach you mean? Speaking of which, do you think we'll be back home before 10P.M, because I have medicines I need to take." the doctor smiles and it creates an echo to the detective's lips which are stretching too.

 

They're looking through the window again and when Sherlock puts his hand on John's thigh, they don't even realise that the I can handle it era is over.

 


 

 

The car door shuts behind John while Sherlock gets closer to the main building. It's not the moment to try to be a poet but the way the sunset dresses the building made of bricks with a bright red is enough to take John's breath away. He looks at the different levels slotted together, always going higher and higher, covered with chimneys and decorated by windows which all seem to have a different shape or size. When his gaze stops on a black dome, ten or so meters away, John heavily swallows: he never liked height.

“Come,” Sherlock calls, already walking to the observatory.

They saw a few trucks when the cab drove them here but given the piles of dirt and stones surrounding them, the renovation works are far from being over. It’s almost eight so there are no workers anymore, besides a few gardeners who are putting heavy bags of fertilizer in their truck and John thinks about Andy who is drinking tea right now in Baker Street while he’s running after a psychopath. How wonderful.

They climb side by side the few stairs which are leading to a modern terrace with a metal sculpture in the center of it which holds Sherlock’s attention for a few seconds before he tries to open the main door: closed , of course. They make a detour on their right, this time they go down the stairs before they reach a small courtyard. Now John must raises his nose so high to see the observatory in his whole that it makes his neck crack. He pulls a face, massages his valid shoulder a bit and sighs when he feels the pain becoming stronger than the medicines.

It's soon forgotten when Sherlock finds an open service entrance. They walk through a small corridor, brand new given the whiteness of the walls which is burning their eyes, and they slow down their pace to not make any noise. They end up on another hallway, larger, and all the doors facing them make them sigh.

“Sherlock,” he calls to ask him where they're supposed to go now.

“I know, let me think.”

Sherlock frowns and moves his fingers, composing his reflection like a musician on his piano but it doesn't last more than four seconds and the detective gets it. He smiles, nods to John to tell him to follow him and turns on his left.

“So?”

“We're in an observatory, John.”

“Precisely…” John says, holding himself on the guardrail when they're climbing the stairs.

“So you can easily guess where Moriarty is hiding.”

John frowns one second but of course, it's crystal clear.

“The dome.”

Sherlock stops, turns around, smiles at him and quickens his pace again. John is really in no hurry to climb that high.

They cross the museum on the first floor where is presented the collection of clocks and pocket watches, and the tick-tock tick-tock growling like thunder as if they were facing the crocodile in Peter Pan is going to drive them crazy. During the day, when the visitors hurry by hundreds, the brouhaha is enough to cover the sound the tiny hands squeak. They try to open several doors which are closed and start to run even if it’s killing the doctor’s shoulder. When they finally find the spiral staircase made of stones, supposed to be closed by a rope covered with red satin, Sherlock steps over it and John takes of the snap hook to be able to pass, before closing it behind him. Here they are, running to the inevitable.

“Wait…” John suddenly asks, hunched forward to catch his breath.

“Are you okay?”

“Give me two seconds to…” he heavily swallows. There’s a drop of sweat sliding along his neck and he gets ready to ask Sherlock for a pause when they hear a voice.

I’m Alive...

 

The sound comes from a radio and the static make them wince. They look at each other and move, slowly. If the human body did things better, their heart would tell their brain it's time to move back, but they're entering a gigantic hallway with a wooden floor so well waxed that the lights reflect on it as if they are walking in a fire.

 

When you call on me, when you breathe for me.. .

 

The music comes from the end of the hallway and John’s eyes are too old to make him understand what is over there but he recognises a metallic construction and - oh , of course, the telescope. They arrive under a dome and the doctor loses his breath for a second. He never likes high, might that be if he's on top of a tower or at its feet. To raise his head to look at the white telescope makes him dizzy. It looks like the telescope is stucked in a gigantic spiderweb, expect the rods holding it are made of metal. The dome is open and the tip exceeds from a few meters. John feels so small.

 

When you look at me, I can touch the sky, I know that I’m alive...

 

On their left there's a iPod plugged on speakers. The quality is really bad and the room is so big and empty that the sounds resonates to a point they want to tear their eardrums off. John wants to ask Sherlock something - anything - when he sees him , standing on top of the stairs, wrapped in his suit, a hand on the guardrail and armed with his most bestial smile.

Moriarty is back. And nothing has ever been so shitty.

 

This time it's Sherlock who's ready to talk but his nemesis’ left hand raises to ask for his attention. Moriarty closes his eyes, focused deep in his soul, before he moves his lips, miming the lyrics surrounding them.

 

When you bless the day, I just drift away... All my worries die, I’m glad that I’m alive...

 

Jim Moriarty sings Celine Dion and they're going to die this way. Well, that’s something else.

 

The psychopath slowly walks down the stairs. Theatrically, he clenches his fist against his chest, under the intensity of the song and he still doesn't open his eyes. He gets closer, a foot after the other as if he's walking on silk and he’s shaking his finger in he air to mark the rhythm. He should stop walking, John is sure about that fact, but no, he's coming closer and closer and now is so near them that John draws back by reflex. Sherlock doesn't move. It's inevitable and it ends like this: Moriarty is facing him.

 

When you call on me, when you reach for me, I feel that I’m alive…

 

And this time the music seems so powerful that Jim put both of his fist against his chest. He's pulling a face, and the ecstasy emanating from his smile reminds John of one Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s statue, Saint Teresa or Saint What’s-her-name, it's not the most important, the most important is the conviction burning deep in him that a bomb will explode at the end of the song. But the song slowly ends and Moriarty finally opens his eyes.

 

“Good evening, Sherlock.”

 

“Good evening,” the detective says with a cold stare.

 

“What do you think of my little hideout ?” he asks enthusiastically, saying the last two words with a twangy voice that you only hear in cartoons.

 

“I admire the symbolic,” Sherlock answers, looking all around them. “But of course, you are not hiding here since the beginning.”

 

"Oh no, of course."

 

"We're you really in Switzerland?"

 

"Maybe, maybe not..." Moriarty distractedly answers, now very focused on his iPod. "Maybe I went on a cruise on the Leman lake. Or maybe I was searching through your bedroom when you were interrogating the Walsh sisters.”

John grins and rolls his eyes but he doesn't have time to sigh that already the sound of the iPod crashing into the ground makes him jump with surprise. Moriarty looks at the electronic mess, nostrils blowing under the rage and he turns around, passing a hand in his hair as if his moment of anger could really have make one of his slicked back hair move.

“I hate it when there's no battery left… But of course you're not here for that, Sherlock.”

“No, not really,” Sherlock says, highly annoyed by this lack of action.

John would like them to do a show of hands to decide if they should keep talking about Apple products battery life or to shoot each other, but in the end he's practically sure he'd be in minority so he prefers to keep his mouth shut.

“No, of course, you're here to talk about Sherrer. I liked Sherrer. I liked my nanny too. Except when she was putting my slice of bread in paper towel before I came back from school. The bread ended up being soft and I hated it. Was your nanny doing that too, Sherlock? Oh, sorry, you're not here to talk about that either - I'll ask her myself later. Sherrer then! Sherrer, Sherrer, Sherrer…” the psychopath sings. “I met him in a restaurant and he immediately fascinated me. Do you know why?”

John automatically turns his head to Sherlock because Moriarty is only speaking to him, but he shakes his.

“Because he was only talking about himself . I find people only talking about themselves absolutely bewitching. I love them, they are my favourites because they're so sad,” he smiles and walks to the telescope he's now inspecting. “They're everywhere, every time. You're asking them how they are and they answer ‘ Good! ’ without asking you the question in return. Does it surprise you that I'm talking about that, Sherlock?” he asks, looking at him behind his shoulder. “You know, I'm a philanthrope, I like when everything is going fine between everyone. But I hate it when it's not happening the way I predict it would. It's a matter of logic: I'm smarter than you all so it's normal that you follow what I ordered,” he says with a disconcerting certitude. “I immediately understood Philipp Sherrer’s potential. He was so lonely, it was beautiful to see. And he kept talking and talking and no one was listening. I ended up paying him a drink and I listened. You know Sherlock, I think it was the best present someone could have give him. He told me so, by the way, that it was the first time someone was interested in him. He told me about his little shows without any audience, the polite applause. Oh of course he told me about the orchestra too and its success, but a shared success. No one cares to go hear Philip Sherrer plays, when Denosa conducts. Everybody always look at the maestro. Even you, Sherlock.”

Moriarty stops, turns around and leans on the telescope before he stares at the detective again.

“I must confess I highly enjoyed watching you suspect so insignificant people, while only Sherrer mattered. The night I met him he told me this tiny little thing, as poky as his willy - that I never saw but I always imagined to be minuscule - he said, ‘ I'd like to be the center of attention, for once ’. You see, I took care of it.”

“But did he know was going to die?” John can't help to ask, because this story is simply absurd.

“Of course, I'm not a monster,” the murderer says back, offended.

Sherlock and John share a knowing look.

“Ah, Doctor…” Moriarty continues, finally noticing  his presence. He pulls a face, snaps his tongue against his palate as if he was staring at a rotting carcass and explains, “in life, there are certain things you can't control. For everything else, there's Moriarty. I was there for Sherrer and I'll be there for many more people.”

“I slightly doubt that,” the detective adds and that makes the psychopath bursts out a laugh.

“Really, Sherlock? Are you here to arrest me?”

Sherlock gets tense and John thinks it's a good moment to pull out his gun, to tell Moriarty he won't let him go this time, that this nuts will spend the rest of his days in a padded prison. Maybe Sherlock could also threaten him to pull the trigger, just a bit, just to try to make him understand what it's like to feel you might die. But Sherlock doesn't move and John doesn't even know if he took his gun. I'm begging you, Sherlock, show him my gun .

“That's why you told your friend Lestrade and his team of happy troublemakers, to come and handcuff me? I saw you arriving but I only saw  one cab… Unless you told your dear big brother I’m hiding here?” he asks, hardly holding back a laugh.

John frowns and turns his head to his flatmate but bloody of course Sherlock hadn’t take his gun and hadn’t tell anyone, as usual, unless this time they're going to regret it, he knows it.

“But that's okay, Sherlock. We can spend the night, just the two of us. Well, just the three of us as…” he starts, agitating his hand to the doctor, clearly trying to remember his name, before he snaps his fingers. “ John , as John followed you like a good little doggie.”

John’s smile worths all the most crude insults of his repertory.

“Oh, don't worry, it's not a big deal, Doctor. You're simply obsessed by Sherlock Holmes the same way Sherlock is obsessed by the Game. And I am the Game. I can't wait to see what will happen tonight…” he smiles one last time before he starts to theatrically climb the stairs.

John and Sherlock look at each other and they don't say a single word because there's nothing to say. Sherlock is the first one to move, climbing the stairs up to the balcony where Moriarty is waiting for them.

Without any surprise, John follows him.

Chapter Text

He rests a foot on the last step and the wind crashing against his cheek slowly makes him raise his eyes. It's automatic, when he sees the park and the green grass meters and meters away from where he is, there's an awful strength that grabs him by the guts and makes him want to kneel, lie down, hold on on something, terrorized he might fall. Vertigo is usually awful, but today, with his immobilized arm, he feels more unstable than ever. He lowers his gaze to find the reassuring vision of his shoes touching something but it's the worst idea he could have had.

They're on a swaying metallic construction and John finally understands what is in renovation at the observatory: the dome balcony. The footbridge they're walking on has small holes on it, through which he sees the yellow and purple flowers below and the invisible hand which is holding him by the stomach pulls even harder. He jumps in surprise when he feels fingers (real ones this time) closing around his forearm. It's Sherlock and he stares at his smile and gaze.

In front of him, Sherlock seems to check John is okay from the tip of his eyelashes, before he lets go of his arm. Sherlock walks toward Moriarty who's leaning on the guardrail, looking at London. The sky is dressing itself with black coming from the East and on the buildings are reflecting the last sunbeams. It looks like the towers are in flames. It must pleases Moriarty.

John gets closer in his turn but keeps his distance nonetheless. His hand closes around the metallic guardrail as cold as his lips he's pinching. There's something surreal to observe the city like this. He feels so far away from all of this, as if he never was a part of it in the first place and something tells him he's not the only one to think this on the balcony. They don't hear a thing, they don't say a thing. It's their Mount Olympus.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Moriarty whispers and for a brief instant, they feel they're all breathing the same air.

The fresh wind raises, it pushes away the clouds and their collars. Sherlock closes his coat and John's cheek gets tensed as a shiver crosses his body. Even Jim Moriarty is rubbing his hands to heat them up. Now that he let go off the guardrail, he turns around smiles to the detective.

"I told you we would see each other again, Sherlock," and there's something in his gaze close to a real emotion that makes him look human, for a split second and it's enough to make John feel sick.

Because a monster can commit the worst crimes, it's in his nature. But that a human being can act like this is incredibly creepy.

"And you always keep your promises," Sherlock answers, hands in his pockets, his back straight.

John only sees his back, as he doesn't want to get too close. Moriarty only talks to Sherlock anyway; he only sees him and seems to live only for him. All of this has a bitter taste of déjà-vu which could be tedious if it wasn't dire. John even has to check twice the bottom of his pants isn't wet and that it's not a green parka that he's wearing. He wonders who Moriarty killed here, as everything he does is meticulously thought to be about his exploits, like when they met in the swimming pool where Carl Powers drowned.

"Always," Moriarty answers, pride stretching the muscles of his face already sick in the first place. "Is it hurting him?" he suddenly wonders, looking at John's immobilized arm and shoulder.

For the first time, Moriarty succeeded in looking at someone else than Sherlock. But of course, he's not talking to John directly and the way he speaks to Sherlock as if John isn't a human being capable of holding a conversation makes him feel like shit. Sherlock doesn't answer so Jim turns around to look at John with his impenetrable gaze. Silence doesn't seem to bother Moriarty who's getting so close that he only have to raise his hand... and here he is, touching John's splint.

"It must reminds him good memories," he smiles, slowly passing his hand on John's collar.

"Good must not be the correct word," Sherlock says back with a squeaking voice.

John is staring at Moriarty. He doesn't shiver and there's in his ears the cacophonous mix of Moriarty's voice and his own beating heart. He doesn't blink once because it's at the first weakness that the enemy strikes and Jim Moriarty is so close to John that he feels all the killing spree of the man emanating from him. John smiles, because he doesn't have any other weapon to defend himself. Someone is going to die here tonight, he's sure about it and he really hopes it won't be Sherlock or himself.

"Oh! Look at his sardonic smile. He blames me for being shot at. He's quite susceptible, isn't he?" Moriarty laughs, hiding his hands in his coat pockets.

"I think he prefers not to get shoot by 9mm bullet every two years," Sherlock reluctantly answers.

"Well life's unfair!" Jim screams like a father scolding his child who doesn't want to finish his soup while kids are starving in Third Word Countries. "Besides, what other choice did I have to make you come here, Sherlock?"

"You could have text me, or anything a bit less..."

"Masterful?"

"Painful," John corrects, as he can't stand to be talked about as if he isn't here.

Moriarty rolls his eyes and lets his head falls backward, apparently offended someone dared to say something stupid in front of him. He flaps his tongue against his palate two or three times but it's so annoying the sound is stuck in John's eardrums. He sighs, almost disgusted and nonchalantly shakes his hand above his shoulder.

"You're useless, doctor. Go away, you're not interesting."

Moriarty dramatically turns his back on him and walks on, nose pointing at the growing stars. John doesn't move, eyes going from Moriarty's back to Sherlock's eyes he's silently interrogating. Of course John won't leave, it's out of the question. He won't ever leave Sherlock behind. Sherlock opens his lips but he doesn't have time to talk because Moriarty is already grabbing his arm under his, pulling him on a walk around the balcony.

"Tell me, Sherlock, what was that like to follow an empty lead? I mean, all those people you suspected, when did you realize that something wasn't right? I wonder... In a way, I think you immediately got it and you pretended to believe one of them could have been the murderer, to surprise me. But I also think you might have really believed it and that... that would be dramatical, Sherlock. Do you agree? You know, Sherrer wasn't supposed to turn his head. He was supposed to be hit on his forehead, on the left. As my man was sitting right behind you, you would have been suspected, just a tiny-mini-bit, just enough to see you defend yourself to the police and justice. That was my plan."

"What about the gun?"

"It was supposed to be placed in your coat. Oh, really, it was supposed to be a one or two week pastime, maximum. I would have never guessed that we would live it for a year..."

They're still walking, very slowly, arm in arm, even if Sherlock's feet seem to want to go backward at every step. John is following them from afar, holding himself on the dome of which the structure worries him a bit more at every second.

"And how did you know I was planning to go to that representation?" Sherlock asks, looking at Moriarty.

"Denosa! Liszt! Les Préludes!", simply explains Moriarty, raising his left hand in the air. "Of course you were going to see it, Sherlock, I know you."

Danger. Everything since they're in this observatory (everything since John entered a laboratory in St Bart's one year ago) screams Danger, but this time it's real. It's written in a red garish sign, attached to the metallic structure with a pictogram of a man wearing a helmet, preventing people from coming closer as he presents his hand to the visitors. Only John notices it and he sees around them the sand bags, the wooden planks and the cords dandling around the structure which is holding the balcony. Under their feet, the ground never shook this much. John can't possibly move any further. He feels so far away from them and it's the vertigo of the distance separating them which is hitting him now.

"All this time, all this time thinking about Sherrer..." Moriarty continues, pulling a face half-disgusted and half-disappointed. "While he was just an accessory... A game for you and me. You know that, don't you?"

This time they stop in front of the guardrail and Moriarty lets go off Holmes' arm. They're facing each other and Sherlock answers:

"Yes."

"Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock... Look at us! Look-at-us," he repeats between his teeth, with a crazy gaze, "Me and you, we're the same. So far away from the rest of them," he screams this time, pointing at the city, miles away from where they're standing. "Because we're superior to them. We control them. We dominate them. So, how did you not get sooner that all of this was about me? Only me? Wasn't I good enough for you anymore?"

This time, Moriarty puts his hands on Sherlock's chest, he's looking at him with his wet eyes but when he understands he won't get any answers, he starts to smile and nods before he withdraws and takes out of his jacket a Beretta he's pointing at the detective's head.

"Sher..." John starts, coming closer from a step without realizing it but Sherlock's hand raises to tell him to stay where he is.

"It's so boring, Sherlock, you shouldn't have acted like this. You should have played with me, the game would have been beautiful if we both had played it. But you were too slow and I want to do something else now."

"So you're going to kill me?" Sherlock asks with an awful calmness.

Don't be calm, Sherlock, not now for fuck's sake.

"Of course. I told you, I'm a philanthropist but things have to go the way I decided."

"I'm sorry it hasn't work," Sherlock concludes, shrugging.

Moriarty shrugs in his turn, seeming to say 'No big deal' when he takes off the safety and John screams without any sound coming out of his mouth. His head is spinning and that has nothing to do with high. Sherlock is so far away and Moriarty's gun so close, it should be the other way around. Something needs to happen, anything, a bloody miracle but they haven't told Mycroft nor Lestrads they were coming here. Since one year John thinks he's slowly coming out of that pool, while everyday that followed only were a hateful echo to what happened over there: John on the ground, Sherlock pointed at, Moriarty controlling everything.

And John can't say Champagne.

Jim Moriarty is the ultimate maestro and his baton has the shape of a scythe. Sherlock has to react. Sherlock has to say something. John needs to hear his voice, again

There's something here you can't find in the recording, the unexpected. You are so brave, John Watson. You're not ready yet… but you're thinking about it, you're obsessed by it. We'll take our time, together, until you let go. Describe your scar to me. Look at you. you really believe that it is the conductor who controls everything? The power is in the hands of the musician because it is him who lets himself being guided!

Sherlock never controlled John. He never forced him. He taught him how to let go.

The evening of the concert, Denosa didn't conduct Sherrer. Sherrer wasn't even looking at him.

Moriarty never has been the master of this story. Not once.

It's Sherrer, since the beginning, who's the central point.

A man no one sees. Nice and maybe a bit transparent. A man they didn't even investigate before they were done with the seven innocents. A man who turned his head to look at himself and who broke, by this simple gesture, all the power and the stageplay of a murderer.

Because everyone forgot that Sherrer existed.

But Sherlock never forgets that John exists. Sherlock never forgets about John. So John moves closer, so brave and so quiet that he is. A step. Another one. Faster. All of his body crashes against Moriarty's and he hears his gun hit the ground at the same instant their legs swings over the guardrail. It's finally when he pulls Jim Moriarty with him in his fall that John Watson understands the definition of the word control.

Chapter Text

"John."


 

The ground and his shoulder and cold.


 

"John..."

"Oh, fuck..."

"John, stay with me."

I'm trying.


 

The need to hurl, spellbinding, total. But lack of oxygen and strength. Wet torso. Right hand... immobile. Not an eye opened yet.

"I'm here, John."

And where am I?


 

It feels like a blade being pulled out of his throat. John growls to breath. He spits, his body shivers. He opens his eyes, one after the other. He doesn't see anything nonetheless. It's because it's dark. It's also because his head is imploding.

"Don't move."

Sherlock is speaking. It must be his head above his own. It's not clear. It's blurry. Everything is blurry.

"Sh..."

"Don't move, don't speak. An ambulance is on its way."

"Wh.."

"Shut up," Sherlock says and this time, heat.

Heat on the tips of his fingers, against his palm. On his forehead, cheek. Sherlock's hands are holding him. Maintaining him. John, him, still can't feel his right hand.


 

The smell is persistent. That's what wakes him up. He needs to hurl. He opens his eyes again and it's still dark. Everything is so wet. And cold. He's still lying on the ground and this time he understands what his body is squeezing: hundreds of purple flowers surrounding him. How ironic.

"My hand..." he mumbles, opening and closing his eyes several time to try to focus his gaze.

His vision is still not clear but he recognises Sherlock's face above his. Sherlock doesn't answer anything so John (despite the tedious burn crossing his back from his neck to his rib) turns his head on his right. He squints on his shoulder then his arm and sees a black mass instead of his wrist. And his fingers still won't move.

Sherlock steps over him, squats on his right and pushes away the black mass. A part of fabric turns around and when John recognises on the label the form of a globe with a crown on it, he both realises he can properly see again and that it's Jim Moriarty lying next to him, at the same time. Sherlock grabs his right hand and massages it to let the blood circulate through his fingers.

"Can you feel them when I do this?"

At the tip of his fingers, John feels a light pressure. He smiles despite himself and barely nods.

"Stop moving now, I'm begging you," Sherlock whispers before he rests his hand on John's forehead.

John closes his eyes just for a second. And faints right away.


 

"And you always keep your promises."

"Always."

"Sherlock..."

John is suffocating, he's drowning. He tries to get up but his body still refuses to move. His eyes open and cry. Sherlock strokes his face, he's behind him now.

"Everything is okay, John."

"Moriarty, Mor..."

"Stop thinking about him."

On his right, the black mass still hasn't moved. John is struggling against the strength in him that is trying to make him raise again. He sees a bit more clearly an arm, an arched back and a neck twisted at an impossible angle. Lying down on Reichenbachiana violas, a few meters away from Moriarty's body, John understands it's really over.


 

Noise and people. It's moving under him. He's moving. Not alone, of course. Nurses. Where is Sherlock?


"Drop in blood pressure. 6/10... "

"The hip..."

"Internal hemorrhage."

He wants to tell them he hears them, that he's conscious. When he'll find his strength back. He turns his head. The oxygen mask is bothering him. Everything is so white around him. John wants to see Sherlock. He voluntarily lets his hand fall. Heat.


 

"I'm here."


 

"... No temperature. We're transferring him in traumatology as soon as the doctor is back."

At warmth, at last.


 

John opens his eyes. Both. It's dark but he recognises the bed he's in. It's an hospital bed. The television in the corner of the room confirms his first impression. The perfusion stuck in his right hand is the last clue he needs. He looks on his left the city through a wide window. From where he is, he can see the London Eye. It's ironic how one got to end up in the hospital to have the greatest view, in every city on the planet. He keeps his inspection of the room: his folder is on the bedside table, he'll read it when he'll have enough strength to use his arm. And on the armchair at the end of the room, there's something that looks like his jacket, he squints and... ah, no. A black coat.

John smiles.


 

"I'd say three more weeks to go with your plaster cast on your right wrist. Concerning your hip, we did an ostheosynthesis ansfw we... Well, you know, you're a doctor too"

John grins. The surgeons continues:

"You'll stay with us one month. A nurse will see you now to give you some painkillers."

The door opens and Sherlock appears with his phone in his hand. He seems to hesitate to exit the room when he sees the doctor but his eyes are automatically attracted to his roommate's so he stays. He puts his phone back in the pocket of his pants (the same than yesterday, with grass and dirt on it).

"Your friend was very lucky. A fall that high could have killed him. It's a miracle he's alive."

"John Watson is a miracle," Sherlock answers as if it's absolutely obvious.

The doctor looks at them both one last time, writes something on John's folder and puts it back on the bedside table before he leaves the room. Sherlock comes next to John and rests a hand on the headboard before he leans.

"How do you feel?"

"Alive," John answers with half a smile.

"Which is a good thing."

"Yeah you could say that," he laughs this time.

They look at each other and don't speak because there're so many things to say that they don't know which words to use. Sherlock finds the solution as he leans forward and rests his lips against John's. When was the last time they kissed? Too long. That's what matter: too long. John closes his eyes, opens his mouth and lets Sherlock's tongue stroke his. Their movements are slow, tender. Sherlock barely strokes John's wounded cheek, making him pulling a face.

"Blimey, even my chin hurts me. Can I have a mirror or will I scare myself?"

"Those are just scratches," Sherlock reassures him, taking place next to him on the bed.

"Yeah, scratches, plus a broken hip and wrist and an internal hemorrhage."

Sherlock doesn't comment those details. Instead he traces a path between the blond hair. John understands that even his skull must be strewn by wounds.

"Tell me..."

"What happened before or after you decided you could be a super-hero?"

John grins, frowning. It's good, even half-dead his silent Fuck you face is efficient.

"First, both of you hit a roof of the East wing. I think you fainted at that moment because Moriarty tried to stand up but he stumbled and made the both of you fall."

"Is he..."

"Oh yes, definitely."

John nods and breathes in, even if it's painful.

"You're okay?" he asks and that makes Sherlock smile.

"Me? Yes, I'm okay."

"That's good..." he breathes out, closing his eyes.

John's body is heavy and the ache is underlying. The EKG/WCG monitor next to him is making a ridiculous racket. He doesn't even realise how many medicines they gave him so he wouldn't go crazy with pain. It also helps him to accept the forced immobilisation.

"I understood, you know..." John confesses with a husky voice.

Sherlock doesn't react so John keeps going.

"Everything you did. For me."

"Sleep, now," Sherlock whispers, his hand resuming his stroking on the wounded forehead.


 

The first forty-eight hours, no one is authorised to enter John's bedroom. There even are two policemen guarding his door. He knows it because he hears the nurses flirting with them before they enter the room. No one mentions it to him but he knows how this works. Of course only Sherlock couldn't care less about the instructions and he comes and goes in the bedroom. It amuses John (at least, when the morphine is not too strong so he's not dazed).

The first time Sherlock brings something to John, it's a Swiss army knife. John doesn't get it, he even thinks the medicines give him hallucinations but Sherlock tells him it seemed to him to be a useful present and John has the confirmation he's not dreaming because even if he's drugged, his own mind wouldn't be as incredible as Sherlock.

The afternoon, Sherlock brings a huge fbouquet because It appears that's what people buy when one of their close relation is in the hospital. John looks at the little white flowers for a long time with a smile he wants as discreet as possible and thanks him. When later that day, a nurses comes to check his temperature, she stops and asks with horror "Who brought you chrysanthemums?", Sherlock understands this is not the kind of flowers to bring to someone who's not dead.

The same evening, when John wakes up after his twelfth nap of the day, there are exactly thirty-four bouquets in his bedroom, all made with different a flowers.

But no Viola Reichenbachiana. John can close his eyes.


 

"John Hamish Watson," sighs a raw voice.

He opens an eye and sees Gregory and Elisa, hand in hand, slowly coming closer to him.

"Hey..." he smiles to them, crashing his thumb against the remote control to raise the backrest of his bed.

Elisa puts back some of her curly hair behind her ear and hesitates a bit before she leans to kiss his cheek. She smells like lavender and even with the ridiculous amount of flowers in the room, John can smell it. She withdraws and John looks at Gregory on the other side of the bed, arms crossed on his chest and eyes dark with reproaches. He seems to barely holding back an anger that John perfectly understands.

"Look at yourself..." Lestrade growls, shaking his head like a dad telling his son off.

"I know," John laughs heartedly to ease the tension.

"You could have died. For fuck's sake, you and Sherlock could have died! Did that cross your mind at one point or, like the two jerks that you are, you really thought you could handle it yourself?" his voice is so strong it hits the walls. He puts his fist against his hips and everything in his attitude reminds John of the DI they didn't remember to call before they went to face Moriarty.

"Gregory..." Elisa calls with a firm voice but her partner doesn't hear her.

"Bloody hell I was at your place! I was literally at your place and you preferred to take a fucking cab to go to that fucking observatory to meet with that fucking psychopath! You could have died!" Gregory screams this time.

The door opens and Sherlock appears. He scans the room for two seconds and frowns.

"Here you are! Perfect, now let me tell you how you're both starting to..."

"Gregory, please be quiet, John needs to rest," Sherlock asks him with a voice that doesn't allow any discussion.

He moves in the room, puts the twentyish magazines he bought on the bedside table and greets Elisa with a smile before he kisses John on the lips. John open his eyes wide, for lack of opening his mouth instead. Sherlock kisses him for at least five seconds which seem to be five-too-many-seconds-given-the-fact-there-are-people-in-the-room-looking-at-them. When he draws back, John can see everyone is surprised. Everyone, except Sherlock. Of course.

"You... mh... Are you alright?" John asks withou knowing if they should talk about it or pretend nothing happened.

If they're lucky, maybe no one noticed the only consultant detective in the world just kissed his blogger on the mouth.

"Yes, of course. Mrs. Hudson will be here around four. She's going to bring me some clothes."

John nods and finally realises Sherlock is still wearing the same suit covered with dirt.

"You haven't come back to Baker Street yet?" Lestrade wonders, suddenly much calmer.

"No."

Sherlock pulls a chair and sits next to the bed. Elisa does the same and Lestrade finally rests his hand on John's (the one that isn't hidden under an impressive plaster) and squeezes it, just one time. Of course they're guys so they don't share a word. Elisa rolls her eyes.


 

In less than four days, John is certain everyone in London came to visit him. First, Gregory and Elisa, then Mrs. Hudson and her scones that Sherlock and John gave to the nurses. The next day, Molly came and she stayed all day. They talked about travelling and sports. Andy came by barely thirty minutes, not long enough so that John could understand why Molly is attracted to him.

Surprisingly, Benjamin Cox came with his mother. They brought him a book about medieval legends, something he would have never bought but that he devoured the same evening. Mike Stamford came too. To all those people, they said John fell from a building in renovation. Sherlock and John never mentioned Moriarty or that John pushed him from a balcony to finally end this madness. To save Sherlock. And London combined.

Truth is they never talk about him. It's because his face haunts John every time he closes his eyes that he can't stand to hear his name when he's awake. The day, despite the pain, he can laugh about Mrs. Hudson story about her mouses problem or with Benjamin and his unique humor. At night, when he wakes up covered with sweat, his mouth is sealed, holding back behind his teeth screams he can't shout out. Sherlock holds his hand, literally, in the air. It's psychological but it allows John to think he's not falling anymore, that someone caught him. That the pain, which is now living in his body since he crashed on the ground, never existed.

Today it's been three weeks that John arrived at the hospital. Sherlock sleeps a few nights a week at Baker Street. Not tonight. He's here when, at midnight, John's face is covered with sweat and tears and it's his hand which is passing a cold towel on his forehead. For once, John can loosen his jaw.

"I can't take it out of my head, you know..." he growls like an animal, slowly shaking his head.

"What?" Sherlock whispers.

"It's only flashes but it's always coming back. We just hit the ground and I'm above Moriarty. He's looking at me. He's smiling and there's all this blood in his mouth. On his teeth. I see them. Red. So red. And I know why he's smiling, I know why he's sm..."

John is breathless. He closes his eyes, shakes his head, his jaw can't move anymore. It's his subconscious which is protecting him and refuses that he says out loud words too painful to be confessed.

"Why is he smiling?" Sherlock wonders.

"Because he understood. Because he could have died when we fell but he was alive for a few seconds more and he understood that me and you, that we..."

Sherlock's chair scraps the ground and his body leans to John. He covers him with his arms and kisses his eyes, temples, forehead and lips.

"He couldn't get it," Sherlock says.

John raises his hand heavy by the plaster and holds against him Sherlock's body. They're holding each other, kiss and murmur words without distinguishing the difference. Sherlock's lips kisse him like a soft rain. Each breathing which is reverberating on his skin murmurs to John's soul all this adoration that unites them, everything that made they become what they are together. Everything that Moriarty hasn't understood.

"He could have never been able to understand."

John's mouth closes but this time it's not lumpy to be filled with undefinable pain. Sherlock lies down against him, he's to tall, his body awkwardly curls up and he rests his hand on John's chest covered with the same blue sheet we can see in all the hospitals around the world.

John's mind is slowing erasing the image of Moriarty's face, eyes and mouth closed, without any blood. He murmurs:

"Stay with me."

"Always."

It's on the fourteenth floor of King’s College Hospital, against Sherlock's lips, that from that night on, John Watson doesn't handle it anymore.

He lives.

Chapter Text

"Watch out."

 

"Yeah, I saw it."

 

Sherlock raises his right arm to invite John to walk in front of him. John thanks him with a nod and avoids the patch of ice in front of the 221B. He puts a feet on the first step, then his cane, before he goes through the wide open door. There's a feeling of déjà-vu, when John wasn't able to invade a room without his presence his subconscious made shaky. Except this time he really needs his cane.

 

The doctors he saw at the King's College Hospital told him he'd need three month of rehabilitation before he could properly walk again and run in five months, if he has the will. It's a good thing that John Watson's DNA is made by nothing but the best will in the world.

 

He slowly climbs the stairs but it's not because of his weakened hip, it's because he's savouring his reunion with the squeaking stairs and the texture of the wall under his fingers. Sherlock is already in the living-room with John's bag he put in the middle of the room. Mrs. Hudson calls them from downstairs, repeating she's coming up as soon as tea is ready. It's her who must have tidy up their place, that's what John thinks about when he sees the first floor cleaner than usual. It's slightly stressing him out, but he's reassuring himself by thinking it won't last.

 

"It's odd," he says to Sherlock, smiling and frowning at the same time.

 

"I know but Mrs. Hudson insisted..." he sighs, rolling his eyes.

 

"I'll put my stuff in my bedroom."

 

John refuses with a gesture of the hand the help Sherlock is silently offering him and grabs one of the bag before he turns around. His cane hits the wooden floor, it's not the most beautiful melody there is. John suddenly wonders if Sherlock will soon play the violin. If they'll go back to the Royal Festival Hall. When will they start a new case. He shakes his head to forget this idea he knows to be impossible right now (the doctors and Lestrade particularly insisted on that last point...) and he opens the door with his free hand before he pushes the bag in with the tip of his cane. He raises his head and it's Sherlock's bedroom.

 

John swallows, blinks and finally realises the impact of his Freudian slip. He turns his head and sees, at the end of the corridor, Sherlock staring at him. He's not sure if he should apologise and ask his flatmate if he wants him to move in his bedroom too or if it's best for the two of them if John sleeps in his own bedroom first, but Sherlock doesn't let him think more about it. He takes the second bag that John wasn't able to take with him and walks to the room. He puts the bag near the bed, turns to the furniture at the end of the room, opens the second drawer which is already empty. He then opens the sliding door of the closet, shows John the free hangers prepared for him and leaves the bedroom to go back to the living-room, gently taping John's chest when he passes in front of him.

 

John smiles. Sometimes, words aren't necessary.

 


 

 

In the living room of the firstfloor, it smells like black spiced tea and arnica. John is massaging his own wrist that he took out of the splint, looking at Mrs. Hudson which is explaining, helped by her thin hands, the modifications she wants to do in her kitchen, if John or Gregory accept to help her out.

 

"It'd would be with pleasure, Mrs. Hudson, but..." he simply starts before pointing at his whole wrecked body.

 

"Of course, dear, not now. Plus I was planning on asking Gregory anyway."

 

"He won't come for Christmas," Sherlock tells them, eyes glued to his phone, sitting in his chair.

 

"Oh no! Why? Is it because of the curry turkey I cooked last year? I knew Jamie Oliver would be the death of me!"

 

"It's because he wants to spend it with Elisa," Sherlock concludes, shrugging.

 

Mrs. Hudson pinches her lips and looks at John who avoids her gaze. She frowns and asks:

 

"And why wouldn't they come? The both of them I mean. It's time to officialise their relationship, don't you think? Unsaid things are never good. People are a couple or they aren't. And people should talk about it, full stop."

 

John and Sherlock raise their eyes at the same moment and look at each other, just enough to make their jaw tensed and to make them straighten on their respective seats.

 

"But times are changing. Back in the days, I..."

 

Both flatmate don't interrupt Mrs. Hudson's story of her fantasied young years which arrives to their ears with the same savor as her scones she forgot to put sugar on. They look at each other and smile when they voluntarily touch their hands, reaching for the tea pot.

 

That night, John sleeps well. In his arms, Sherlock too.  

 


 

 

Time passes. The temperatures are less clement. John can climb the stairs without using his cane.

 

He learns to walk again, to move his hip to an angle which doesn't make him growl because with pain. Sometimes, when he walks down the street to buy his newspaper, his subconscious forces a slip of the tongue by saying he's learning to live again when the cashier asks him how is the rehabilitation going. He doesn't mention it to Sherlock, the subtext is  pretty clear enough.

 

At noon, he climbs back to the first floor and only hears the voices coming from the living room when he puts a feet on the landing. Oh, how those particular voices make him shiver.

 

"I think we have fruit juice somewhere."

 

"That'd be nice," Clara answers.

 

John closes the door behind him, captivated, and stares at the incredible scene going on in the middle of his own living room. There's Harry, sitting on the couch, still wearing her beige trench coat and her hair are put backward thanks to a black and thick headband. Clara is standing next to the window, arms crossed against her pink jumper. Her coat is hanged next to John whose eyes are wide with shock.

 

"Have you found the newspaper you were looking for?" Sherlock asks standing with one feet in the kitchen.  

 

"I... Yes," John answers, feeling a bit silly.

 

"I don't need to introduce you to your own sister, right?"

 

John regurgitates an awkward laugh and walks to Harriet to kiss her cheek before he does the same with Clara. He tells them he'll be back in a sec and joins Sherlock in the kitchen. His flatmate has his head in the fridge, he takes out of it a bottle of fruit juice he smells.

 

"Have you invite them?" John whispers, pointing at the living room with his thumb above his shoulder.

 

"No, why?"

 

"Why are they here then?"

 

"To see you, probably? Is the pineapple juice still good?"

 

Sherlock approaches the bottle to John's nose to make him smell it too. John pulls a face with all his facial muscles and draws back from a step by reflex.

 

"I take that as a no..." Sherlock continues, putting back the bottle in the fridge before he takes out another one.

 

"And you let them in?"

 

"No, as you can see they're still waiting in the street. What is the problem, John?!" Sherlock asks, outraged, catching a glass on the table to fill it with the raisin juice but instead of a violet liquid, a thick green something noisily comes out of it. They look at each other and at least, Sherlock throws away that bottle.

 

"I just don't understand what Harry is doing here. She never came once since I moved in."

 

"She learned you had an accident. And as you didn't tell her yourself, she's going to make you pay for it."

 

"Did she tell you that?"

 

"No, I deduced it. She's very easy to deduce. Speaking of which, did you know her Oedipus complex is due to..."

 

"Alright," John interrupts him, coming out of the kitchen.

 

He comes back in the living room where the two women are standing next to a sea map of the early XIX century, bought by Sheelock a few years ago, for a case about 'pirates', which of course was in reality organised by a mythomaniac.

 

"How are you?" he smiles at them, taking off his jacket.

 

"Will you tell me how you almost died?" Harry nearly barks, nodding to John's cane.

 

Clara discreetly puts her hand on her wife's back and John pinches his lips. He deserves this one.

 

"It's nothing..."

 

"A ten meters fall? An internal hemorrhage and a broken hip? I'm glad to know it's nothing!"

 

"How could you possibly know that? John is sensibly losing his temper, closing his eyes.

 

"We had diner with Bob, Thursday night. Robert Gillen, your surgeon."

 

"So much for medical confidentiality..."

 

"You're my brother, John, Bob thought I knew about this, don't blame him."

 

John opens his lips, ready to responsable to her but his sister is already showing him her back, searching for her cigarettes in her bag and John wants to scream while everything which is happening in this living-room reminds him of their teenage years which nearly drove him crazy. He hates fraternal love with the same bitterness that he'd be nothing without it. He hates this forced relationship that he sees rotting with the years and that he knows his body won't ever be able to forget. And he blames himself for not even trying to save them.

 

"Harry..." he growls, coming closer to her.

 

She straightens, pinches the cigarette  between her lips and lights it before she turns her head to blow the smoke away from her brother's face.

 

"That's fine, John. Truth is, I know that feeling," she suddenly whispers, looking at her feet, trying to flatten a fold of the Persian rug.

 

"I made tea," Sherlock tells them, arriving in the living room.

 

Clara loudly goes into ecstasies, taking this excuse to escape the back of the room where her wife and her brother-in-law are reacting the Hundred Years War in two minutes.

 

"What feeling?" John asks, shaking his head.

 

"To have an addiction problem. I'm not lecturing you, I'm really not. You fell from a building in renovations, running after a burglar after your flatmate, or something, that's what I heard. Conclusion, you're an addict, John. To that way of life. To... adrenaline, I don't know. And you think you're handling it, until the day you end up in the hospital, body in shreds. I won't have the cheek to describe the parallel between our stories, I think you're smart enough to figure it out by yourself..."

 

It has nothing to do with your addiction, John wants to spit. Expect that this introspection in his life, from someone who's not a part of it anymore since almost twenty years, is touching, however a bit sad. He opens his lips, closes them and adds his teeth in the equation. He doesn't make a sound because there's nothing to say. It's often the case when John is wrong.

 

"Well, as long as you seek medical advise. Or that you're being take care of. It's important to have someone with whom you can get by," Harry adds, her eyes landing on Clara, who's loudly laughing to Sherlock's inaudible remarks.

 

John turns around and also stares at the scene that even Ovid would have thought too absurd to write: the meeting between Clara Bennett and Sherlock Holmes. Seeing the blue eyes fixing the tea that Sherlock is pouring, John has the feeling he's not alone to face his problems.

 

"Yeah. Sorry I didn't tell you sooner I had an accident."

 

"We're Watson. Don't worry, I get it."

 

John smiles and gently taps his sister's shoulder. I front of the too infused tea and filled with spoiled milk, John understands rehabilitation can take unexpected forms.

 


 

 

He doesn't quite know how he can phrase it. He thinks about it often, wondering if he really wants it.

 

He really wants it.

 

Is he ready? His body might be not. However, today, he succeeded to run after a napkin taken away by the wind. His next appointment with the physiotherapist won't happen before one month. He doesn't swallow pills by handful. John is retrieving the use of all his members. Life is becoming normal again. If normal can be used to describe what was happening before the fall.

 

John would prefer if Sherlock could understand it without them talking about it. So his hand stroke Sherlock's lower back when they see each other in the hallway. Before Sherlock leaves for Scotland Yard, John kisses him empathically. When they're reading on the sofa, John rests his head against Sherlock's shoulder.

 

And of course, Sherlock understands.

 

It's midday and there's not a sound at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson has left to go to the hair dresser (or the doctor, they didn't listen). Sherlock has a meeting at the end of the day with a woman to whom has been stolen a painting she claims doesn't worth a thing. Sherlock has already four theories. The case will be closed before diner.

 

"Who are you suspecting? The cleaning lady?" John asks, sipping his cup of tea next to Sherlock who's sitting at the kitchen table.

 

"Pablo Renaldi."

 

"I beg your pardon?" John laughs, nonchalantly playing with the tea bag in his cup.

 

"An art trafficker who disappeared in the 90's."

 

"Why would he steal a daub like this?"

 

"Oh I think Mrs.Mazers' painting is in reality a Peploe stolen in Edinburgh in 1984," concludes Sherlock, turning his head to his flatmate, face brightened up by an insolently proud smile.

 

A smile that both annoys and turns John on. Standing next to him, he looks at Sherlock's hand resting on his own belly that it's slowly stroking above the shirt. John breathes in through his nose. Sherlock's fingers slide between the fabric to touch his skin. So John puts back his cup on the table. Sherlock turns his chair to face him and slowly unbuttons his shirt. John automatically pulls his stomach in. He's forty and whatever Sherlock or an ex could say, he knows he's not exactly a classic beauty. The hairs on his chest are turning white, his skin seems to keep the weight of the years within it. And of course, the scars on both of his shoulders don't help.

 

Sherlock takes off his shirt, taking his time. His hands don't leave his skin for too long as they're now stroking his neck and the marks on his shoulders. The one that time has vaguely erased and the one Moriarty settled. Then Sherlock stands up on his feet and deeply kisses John. He understands the forbidden name crossed his mind; it's not something that should happen again.

 

John rolls his arms around Sherlock's body. They're kissing noisily, filling the tepid silence with their heated breathing. They're covering each other's body with their hands which are stroking, undressing and asking for more. But it's Sherlock who gives the rhythm when his fingers close around John's neck he's pulling. He's walking backward, inciting John to follow him to their bedroom in the middle of the day and that's the most obscene part of it, thinks John.

 

Have they closed the front door? Should they close the curtains? Does John have to muffle his moans in his closed mouth or in a pillow?

 

Sherlock shuts his questions by making him lay on the bed, closing the door. He takes place above him, claims his mouth eagerly, bites his lips until he hears John moan, while John tries to take off the purple shirt which is preventing their chest to meet. Sherlock's right hand catches his wrist to move it above his head. Forehead against forehead, their breathing are crashing on each other's lips. John raises his second hand and joins it with the one Sherlock is already holding. If it's a smile which is stretching his lips right now, it's also the most beautiful Thank you in the world.

 

Sherlock slowly withdraws and stretches a hand to the bedside table, pelvis still firmly holding John's. John closes his eyes and when Sherlock's mouth is on his again, he shivers deep to the core, as he feels him tying his wrists together. Then Sherlock stands up and John doesn't move. He hears him walking around the bed and opening the closet. Everything else is blurry. He waits a few seconds and finally Sherlock's hands are on him again. They're looking at each other but upside down now. Then Sherlock's hands rest on John's eyes a black blindfold. John raises his head a bit to make it easier for him to tie the knot.


In the darkness, nothing has ever been so brilliant.

Chapter Text

He quickens his pace, closes his fists he's balancing along his body and starts to climb the stairs:

 

"Sherlock!" John whispers as loudly as possible, body contorted to see the detective through the stairwell.

 

He sees a black coat floating three floors higher before brown locks appear too.

 

"Hurry up!"

 

John rolls his eyes, ignores (bloody again) his erratic breathing which is burning his trachea because of the coldness and the fact they're running since twenty minutes, and climbs the stairs as fast as his legs allow him to.

 

When they woke up this morning, him and Sherlock were sure they were going to spend another day interrogating the players at the Crown Diamonds about their friend, killed earlier this week. A murder caused for the money, undoubtedly, as Ronald Adair, 41 years old, has been killed by a bullet in his chest around 10PM in front of the club where he won 12000£ in one night. Sherlock pretended he was a new gamer the first few days of the case, to gather enough informations and was planning on finding the culprit before the weekend. But they got lucky enough to see a man run like hell when he saw them at the entrance of the very private club. It's him they're running after now, until they reach that open-air parking where John is feeling all the muscles in his body suffering at each step.

 

The floors are passing by and soon John can hear nothing but his own steps. It's amazing how Sherlock isn't particularly sportive but how much the adrenaline is sufficient to give him a Usain Bolt touch. John plunges a hand in his pocket and swears when he realises it's his flatmate who has the gun. And as if they're mentally connected he hears gunshots above him.

 

He quickens his pace on the last steps, pushes the yellow door and runs to the wall next to Sherlock who's waiting for the man they're pursuing to stop shooting, to try to aim in his turn.

 

"Probabilities of our chances de survie ? »

 

"Not good. He has three bullets left."

 

"I'd say high then," John says with delight, taking out his phone to warn Lestrade they already arrested Adair's murderer.

 

Sherlock raises an eyebrow, dives his hand covered with leather in John's vest pocket to take out his credit card he pinches with two fingers, before he slightly presents it off the wall they're hiding behind. There's a detonation and Sherlock gives John back what's left of his card which wasn't very impressive in the first place anyway. At least, the man has only two bullets left.

 

They're looking all around them to try to understand the floor's plan to catch the murderer. John maybe has an idea so he opens his mouth, turns his head to Sherlock and both of them freeze. They hear the sound of a motor and that's not a part of the plan. Sherlock moves on his left, raises his gun, stretches both of his arms and fires once, hitting the rims, twice, hitting the rear door of the grey car which is turning after a thick wall on which is written Exit.

 

"Bloody hell..." John sighs, joining Sherlock in the middle of the way.

 

He passes a hand on his jaw, looks all around them the bullet holes and this time really takes out his phone. He sends a simple text to Lestrade to give him their position then they lean against a car's bonnet. The alarms turns on. The waiting will be long.

 


 

"You can't describe him?"

 

"Not very tall. A black pair of jeans and thick shoes. Less than forty years old seeing the flexibility of his gestures..." says Sherlock, angry he can't give move details to Lestrade.

 

There're Elena and Lucy of the ballistic around them who are taking of a wall what's left of a bullet. With a hand, John recommend a cop to not lean on the Ford with a capricious security system and Lestrade asks:

 

"So he saw you in front of the Crown Diamond and just run away?"

 

"He knows me," Sherlock thinks out loud, scrutinising Elena's gestures.

 

"It'll be simple to ask for informations at the club then. Maybe the other players saw him leave and could give us his name."

 

"Yes because he's smart enough to escape from me but stupid enough to give his real name. Please, think before you speak, Gregory, I'm sure you could do it," Sherlock growls, rolling his eyes, hand stretched out to grab the plastic sachet Lucy is giving him.

 

"We say he but we don't even know if it's a man or a woman..." John intervenes, walking closer to the group.

 

Lestrade frowns and looks at Sherlock who doesn't answer. They don't know for sure and it's comforting them in the idea they should start to take this case seriously.

 

"I think we know more about our murderer than we thought..."

 

Sherlock stretches out the sachet with the rest of the bullet between Gregory and John, with a fascinated smile on his lips.

 

"You think six bullet holes will be enough to help us find out who's the bastard behind all this?" the DI asks, barely impressed.

 

"Oh no, Gregory, we don't have six bullet holes in his room but seven," Sherlock concludes, walking closer until he puts the plastic sachet on John's right shoulder, making the man jump with surprise. “A bullet strictly used by soldiers. A bullet that John got a taste of a few months ago."

 

"Sherlock..." John breathes out, looking at the cupronickel pieces.

 

"Are you suggesting that..." Lestrade starts, his eyes opening wide but Sherlock interrupts them both, face brightened by an extreme satisfaction  which is stretching his lips:

 

"That Ronald Adair's murderer is the same man who killed Philipp Sherrer and who shot John? Affirmative. Well, who would have thought that a banal story of fixed games of cards would turned out to be so exciting?"

 


 

In the bedroom of the first floor of the 221B Baker Street , John finishes to pack his things. He doesn't know how long Sherlock and him will be gone to Aberdeen, where the murderer of Philipp Sherrer and Ronald Adair has been seen yesterday morning. At first, he wasn't scaring them, until they understood he had a connection with Moriarty - which, however presently residing in ashes in a quite kitsch and small box, is not a name John or Sherlock like to think about.

 

John closes and puts his bag near the heater before he leaves the room. In the living-room, he joins Sherlock who is putting away his papers - which have probably nothing to do with their current case but John doesn't mind this kind of detail anymore. The detective's mind is used to focus at the same time on a double murder, the chemical composition of a lipstick and the fire in the chimney he's taking care of. John walks to his armchair on which he takes place, sighing loudly.

 

"Are you alright?" Sherlock asks, looking at him above his shoulder.

 

"Yes. Just a bit tired."

 

"We're leaving at five in the morning ," he repeats it, probably scared that John could have a request basely human, like to have a full night of sleep or something as futile.

 

"It will be okay," John confirms, nodding.

 

Sherlock puts the envelope with all the till receipts on the right side of his desk and comes to seat next to the fireplace too. He accepts John's feet on his knees without a word. John closes his eyes, head holding on his left fist. Legs stretched out in front of him, he relaxes a bit from the ache born after their high-speed chase with the murderer, yesterday. The case doesn't seem easy. It's not something they particularly think about. Meanwhile, John is still enjoying the warmth of their home, the tea waiting on the coffee table and Sherlock's hand which slides under his sock to gently rub his ankle.

 

On the first floor of 221B Baker Street , everything is the same and yet, everything is different. Everyday life is working like this, articulating around a love they're not expressing by words but by gestures. By the eyes and the body. By letting go and trusting each other. And even if they are things that can't be controlled, there's a rest. A world without a shape nor limits, where the unexpected hides and all those things which are making a life. A life John embraces day and night. Without trying to control it anymore.

 

He slides his fingers under his turtleneck and brushes past his skin with his fingernails.


John Watson isn't afraid of tomorrow and elsewhere anymore, because today and forever, there's Sherlock Holmes.