One and a half minutes.
That's normally all it took. Less than thirty seconds sometimes, ninety at the most. Yes, just a minute and a half for Sherlock to have an entire individual laid out, life story diagrammed and ready for lecture.
It’s been ages since he’d met anyone who’d challenged this timeframe, so there’s no reason to think the man Mike Stamford brings into the lab with him, potential flatmate, would be any different.
Mike’s friend is mildly interesting, if easily read.
Military, doctor, suffering from PTSD, a long history of harsh circumstances, psychosomatic limp.
He determines this with a flicker of eyes when the newcomer enters the room. It isn’t until he reaches for the mobile the ex-soldier offers, Sherlock realizes he’d too quickly skimmed the living tome that is John Watson.
The twist in the tale is revealed by John’s hand. Not delicate, thick fingered, but smaller, perfectly proportional to the rest of his compact frame.
Competent hands, likely skilled .
It’s the the back of John’s left, the one holding out his brother's phone, that initially catches his attention: the absence of heavy veining incongruous with a man who works with them, the customary plumped vessels accompanying the rigors of the military’s physical training.
Once he notes this, it takes Sherlock two minutes, one hundred and twenty seconds, to put the rest of the pieces together. It brings new meaning to John’s shortness; the way his chosen jacket flares and hangs low, obscuring his hips; the narrowness of the man’s chin; the relative smoothness of his well muscled throat.
Three and a half minutes total to suss out the person of John Watson in his entirety.
There’s always something...
Standing there so fully realized, so natural, unless one had known John from birth, they would deem his conclusion absurd.
Three and a half minutes…
This is just the first of many reasons Sherlock shifts John’s “interesting” status from mild to acute and the one that impels him to make a go of him as a flatmate.
Multi-syllabic, but not a complex a word, really.
There is more to reveal about his new flatmate, much more, but the uttered “extraordinary” cuts this off, dislocating him.
Falling doubly from John Watson’s lips as it has just a moment ago, within Sherlock’s chest everything is suddenly rendered warm and liquid and the feeling, for lack of a more articulate descriptor, is “golden.”
“That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do people normally say?”
John returns his own tight smile with a broader one before turning away, scanning the passing streets with the wary eye of one who's known violence.
“I can imagine.”
The statement, offered after a few moments of silence, is said without rancor, even amusement, perhaps, and this startles.
“Well, most people have things they’d rather keep to themselves.” John’s voice is quiet as he turns back to face him.
“Anything else you’d care to deduce about me? Since you obviously see things so clearly.”
There’s no shift in John’s tone and he's about to go charging forward with the rest of his knowledge but then Sherlock notes the challenge in the blue eyes staring back at him. He snaps his mouth closed with an almost audible “click.”
He understands immediately the deeper meaning in John’s innocuous statement, the true question being asked, and the potential consequence of his response.
“That was enough, wasn’t it?”
The new smile on John’s face and the knowledge that he’s passed this test successfully restores Sherlock’s earlier golden feeling.
He settles back into his seat and re-engages with his phone as a surprisingly pleasant, companionable silence falls over them. Glancing up only occasionally at John, who’s turned back to the window, Sherlock realizes that there’s perhaps something more “extraordinary” here than just his deductions.
Annoying blanket wrapped around his shoulders Sherlock lays out the facts for Lestrade.
He’s halfway through his rant about the cabby’s killer when it dawns on him. Darting his eyes around the scene he locates John off to the side, behind the tape. Though he’s rocking back and forth on his heels, his pose is one of military “rest.” His expression isn’t particularly concerned but rather cautiously expectant.
For the second time this evening Sherlock’s mouth unexpectedly snaps shut.
It takes him longer to brush Lestrade off than he’d like, but his mind is reeling so ferociously it’s difficult to sound entirely coherent.
John tested him in the cab, but he’s been testing John all night. Outside their one awkward conversation at Angelo’s, which still went better than he’d anticipated, John’s overcome every charge with flying colors:
Crime scene, Mycroft, rooftops, lost limp, ex-junkie.
Of course the inequity of their trials is significant, but anyone who knows him understands: that’s just how it is. The astonishing thing, however, is that John doesn’t and yet, there he stands still. Not only that, but he's added an entirely new column to the tally.
John’s killed for him.
If he’s felt awe before, Sherlock supposes he must have deleted it, but there’s little doubt that this is the most apt word for what he’s presently experiencing. It’s still burning bright inside him when he meets John at the tape.
“Yes. Yes. Must have been, through that window.”
John’s a terrible liar and it strikes Sherlock profoundly what this means in terms of the truth that he lives.
“Well, you’d know... Need to get the powder burns out of your fingers. I don’t suppose you’d serve time for this, but let’s avoid the court case.”
At these words, for the first time John looks a bit nervous. Sherlock surmises that this might be because of what a prison sentence would truly mean to someone like him.
Or maybe it’s something else...
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, of course I’m alright.”
Sherlock’s surprised by John’s answer, but less than he is by his own thoughts.
Normally he never thinks about gender unless it’s in terms of victims and suspects. Now he suddenly finds himself wondering where in his life John split from his earlier socialization? And why it might be more difficult for one person to kill someone than another?
“Well, you have just killed a man.”
“Yes, I…” John flashes him an uneasy grin. “That’s true, isn’t it?“ Then the smile shifts, becoming both more authentic and interesting. “But he wasn’t a very nice man.”
The words snap Sherlock’s world into new clarity and the fog of his earlier questions evaporate. He realizes at his base, John is a soldier and, just perhaps, he's not an entirely nice man either.
The fact John can so easily kill and compartmentalize lends credence both assertions, but Sherlock also knows without a doubt that “nice” and “good” are not the same thing.
So, while John cracks a bit of gallows humor about his deceased chauffeur's cab skills and then talks about "giggling" at crime scenes, Sherlock revels in the knowledge he’s found a good man in John Watson.
One worth keeping.