John mentally adds ‘straddling (no, not straddling, he’d been very carefully not straddling, keeping his hips as far from Sherlock’s as possible) pinning his mad flatmate to the sofa in an exhausted, frustrated, half-desperate attempt to get him to get some bloody sleep’ to his list of things to never, ever do again. Or, well, to be more specific, his list of things he’s inconveniently discovered he’d really like to do again and therefore should never, ever do again.
He collapses back into his chair after Sherlock finally (finally) agrees to get a couple of hours of sleep, and watches his flatmate curled up on the sofa. Sherlock looks exhausted, paler than normal, dark smudges under his eyes, and John wishes he hadn’t promised to wake Sherlock up after only three and a half hours. But a small amount of sleep is better than no sleep at all; John will just have to make every second count, and not start the timer until he’s certain Sherlock’s asleep.
Of course, John’s never actually seen Sherlock sleep, so he has no idea what it looks like. Sherlock’s breathing has slowed, evened, his face has relaxed, and he looks almost innocent. But for all John knows, that could be an act.
“Sherlock?” John asks quietly.
“Sherlock,” John says, more loudly.
John considers for a moment, then pulls out his phone and says, “Look, Sherlock, I didn’t mention this earlier because I knew you’d be mad, but I told Fiona that if you went out again tonight, she could come over and use your equipment. Just the stuff you don’t have ongoing experiments with, and she’ll put it all back. I figure, you being asleep is the same as you being out, right? So you won’t mind if I text her and tell her to head over?”
He waits, and when Sherlock doesn’t reply, he says, “I’m taking your silence to mean it’s all right,” and types up a message to Fiona.
When there’s still nothing, John nods and deletes the message. He stands, grabbing the throw off the back of his chair, and moves back over to the sofa, carefully draping it over Sherlock.
“I wish you’d take better care of yourself,” John tells him quietly. “If anything ever happened to you-” He cuts off, because some things he can’t admit to Sherlock, even when he’s asleep. Some things he can’t even admit to himself, really; he prefers to delude himself into thinking he could get along just fine without Sherlock.
John sighs, tucks the blanket up to Sherlock’s neck, stops himself from brushing Sherlock’s hair off of his forehead, and returns to his armchair.
He picks up his phone again, this time to set the alarm to go off, and settles back to get some sleep of his own.
John doesn’t expect to sleep well, in the chair like that, but he’s tired, and the next thing he knows, it’s three and a half hours later and his mobile is beeping loudly in his ear. John gropes for it, hits dismiss, and stretches, grimacing slightly at hearing his back crack.
A glance over at the sofa tells him that Sherlock’s still asleep.
“Sherlock,” John calls.
Sherlock doesn’t stir, so John pushes himself out of the chair and moves to the sofa.
“Sherlock,” John says again, much louder, and right in Sherlock’s ear. “Get up.”
When that still doesn’t produce a result, John leans over to shake Sherlock’s shoulder, gently at first, then rougher.
Sherlock shifts, mumbles something, and then his eyes fly open.
John smiles. “There you are.”
Sherlock blinks at him. “You woke me up.”
John groans. “You better not be complaining, Sherlock, you’re the one who made me agree to it.”
Sherlock ignores him, sitting up and reaching for his phone. He looks at it, then says, “Three and a half hours.”
“Yes,” John says irritably. “Just like we agreed.”
Sherlock just stares at him.
John rolls his eyes. “Fine. Go back to sleep, then, if you’re going to be such a child about it.” He turns away, fully intent on storming up to his room.
“John,” Sherlock says softly.
John hesitates, but there’s something vulnerable in Sherlock’s voice that he can’t resist. He turns back around.
Sherlock is still staring at him, eyes intense, but now he looks hesitant. “I never allow myself to sleep for more than two hours at a time while on a case, usually significantly less.”
“I’ve noticed,” John comments dryly.
“There’s a reason,” Sherlock protests. “I can snap myself out of it then. I can say, ‘I’ll sleep for forty minutes,’ and then wake myself up. After two hours, I’m in too deep, and I can’t control it anymore. I’ve done research on the stages of sleep; people sleep in cycles through the night, have multiple stages of REM, or dream, sleep, and the first one generally occurs after ninety minutes of sleep. I have a working theory that once I pass that first REM stage, I-”
“Sherlock,” John says, cutting him off because he’s not feeling up to following any Sherlock working theories at the moment. “Sleep is – sleep, it’s supposed to be something that recharges you, not something you can control.”
Sherlock scowls. “Why not? It’s served me perfectly well so far, at least up until two hours.”
John sighs. “You know, if you just got a decent amount of sleep on a somewhat regular basis-”
“I can’t, John,” Sherlock says, shaking his head. “Not on a case. There’s always work to be done, and I’ll miss something vital, will arrive at something too late, and I-” He looks away. “I dislike the dreams I have, when I sleep that long during an active case. I can’t make myself wake from them.”
John’s protests fade a bit. He knows what it’s like not to want to sleep because of the dreams you know you’ll have. He’d thought Sherlock had known about his nightmares (though he doesn’t really know why, except that Sherlock seems to know almost everything) but apparently he doesn’t, since he’d been surprised to find out that John didn’t always sleep through the night. “Why don’t you have someone wake you, then?”
Sherlock turns back to face him, a small smile on his lips. “Few have been in a position to do so,” he says. “And those that I did ask thought it best to let me continue sleeping while I was actually doing so, either for my own good or for their convenience.”
No wonder Sherlock had been so insistent on getting him to promise, then. “Did you have any dreams tonight?” John asks.
“Undoubtedly,” Sherlock replies. “But none that I remember, so to answer what I believe you meant by your question: no.”
Trust Sherlock not to just say no. John chuckles, shakes his head, and says, “I’ll always wake you up, okay? So from now on, just ask me.”
Sherlock looks at him oddly. “John. You are-” He hesitates.
“I’m what?” John prompts.
“You are a lot of firsts for me,” Sherlock admits quietly. “This is one of them. Thank you.”
John starts to tell him that it’s not a big deal, but stops, because it obviously is to Sherlock. “You’re welcome.”
Sherlock nods, then flings the blanket off and stands. He grabs his phone and paces over to the wall of photos, alternating between staring at it and checking things on his phone.
‘Right back into it,’ John thinks with a smile.
Sherlock lets out a triumphant, “hah!” and darts back over to the sofa, snatching up his laptop.
“What is it?” John asks.
“Sales records,” Sherlock replies as his fingers fly over the keyboard.
“Of the trainers?” John asks.
“Obviously,” Sherlock says. “Get your laptop, we have work to do.”
Sherlock’s ‘work’ turns out to be comparing names on the sales records (of which there are a lot, the trainers are apparently popular) with members of the rugby and football teams. They split up the records, each of them hunting through lists of names on their laptops (and, at least in John’s case, making liberal use of ctrl + f).
Sherlock mutters to himself, and gets up every so often to pace in front of the wall of photos, when his muttering turns from strings of thoughts to going over the messages and missing items.
John mostly ignores him, concentrating on not letting all of the names blur together, and hums quietly as he works.
It’s like that for a bit, but John still hasn’t found any matches when Sherlock suddenly freezes in mid pace and turns towards him.
“John,” he says, eyes bright in a way John knows means he’s caught on to something. “You’re singing.”
John grimaces. It’d been quiet; he hadn’t even thought Sherlock had noticed. “Sorry. I’ll stop.”
“Don’t you dare,” Sherlock says. “What is it?”
“Uh,” John says. “Some Clash song. Been stuck in my head for a bit. Mark did it for karaoke the other night and spent the rest of the night singing it; that’s probably why.”
“I believe I can propose an additional reason. Sing it again,” Sherlock orders.
“Why?” John asks.
“It’s important,” Sherlock insists.
John rolls his eyes. “Fine.” He clears his throat, and sings hesitantly, “When we got thrown out, left without a fuss, and weekends we’d go dancing. Got me in bad fights, play me pool all night.” He’d left out a few lines there, he knows, but he can’t quite remember all of the lyrics.
Sherlock shakes his head. “No, the part you were just singing.”
“Uh.” It’d been the beginning, he thinks, so he shrugs and goes for it, “Met when we were in school, never took shit from no one, we weren’t fools. The teacher says we’re dumb, but we’re only having fun.”
“Yes,” Sherlock says, typing furiously at his phone. “Oh, yes.”
“What?” John asks.
“Think, John,” Sherlock says, scribbling something on the wall. “Where else have you heard that recently? Seen it?”
John repeats the last of the lyrics in his head, watching Sherlock write. ‘The teacher says we’re-’ He stands up. “The message. Professor Andrews: says we’re dumb.”
“You’re scintillating this morning, John,” Sherlock says, flashing a quick smile at him.
“Couldn’t it be a coincidence?” John asks, trying to look around Sherlock’s mad darting about to see what he’s doing to the wall.
“Unlikely,” Sherlock replies, finishing up his writing and stepping back.
The messages tacked up next to each victim have been added to, with little lines drawn around the original message.
Austin Collins’ now reads:
Wave my arms around
Flag one of those taxis maybe
I saw a girl somewhere somehow
/Forever sticks in/ my mind somehow
Martin Andrews’ says:
We met when we were in school
Never took no shit from no one, we weren’t fools
The teacher /says we’re dumb/
We’re only having fun
Kevin Mitchell’s reads:
But some days we hide inside
All courage gone and paralyzed
Sniff that wind of ugly tension
Today the /jerks have got/ aggression
Finn Morgan’s says:
The thief of life
/Move[d] onwards and outwards/ to love
And finally, Ashley Green’s reads:
You better cheat cheat
No reason to play fair
Cheat cheat or don’t get anywhere
Cheat /cheat if you can’t/ win
“They’re lyrics, John,” Sherlock says. “All of them, lyrics from Clash songs.”
“So...we’re looking for a Clash fan?” John asks.
“More than one,” Sherlock says. “And more than just fans. The messages aren’t even whole lyrics; they’re fragments of a line from a song. The only people who would recognize the messages for what they are would be those who have these songs memorized, who have them on the mind often enough to connect them. The killer must be one of those, and whatever person or persons the message is for must be as well.”
John frowns. “You think the messages are for a specific person, or a group of people?”
Sherlock waves a hand. “Obviously. The main message is spray painted in large letters, public places, so, he wants the world to know he’s got something to say. But! The general public can’t understand the message, so he doesn’t want them to know what he’s saying. Then there’s these.” He points at the pictures of the symbols on the bodies, all drawn in purple ink. “The endless or mystic knot – six infinity symbols combined together to represent eternity. Unlike the words, this one is small, hidden, not meant for the general public, then. A calling card, perhaps, though those generally tend to be on display as well – those who leave calling cards are those who want attention, not likely to hide their signature. An indicator for whoever the message is meant for, then, perhaps a symbol of a group the killer belongs to, or something that means something to the person the killer is trying to reach.”
John looks more closely at the symbol. “That’s brilliant, Sherlock.”
Sherlock smiles at him, then frowns at the wall. “Likely he thought there’d be some media coverage of it, otherwise how would whoever it was for be able to recognize it?” His eyes narrow at the pictures of the symbol. “Unless – unless it’s meant for someone he thought would have occasion to see the bodies. Someone at the university, that’s why they’re always left on campus, but who?”
He falls silent, staring at the wall, and John can practically see him thinking.
“I’ll just go back to the sales records, then, shall I?” John asks.
“Yes,” Sherlock agrees absently. “Excellent.”
John returns to the records, glancing at Sherlock out of the corner of his eye every so often. Sherlock paces in front of the wall of photos, occasionally tearing things off and repositioning them, or dropping them on the floor and leaving them there until sometime later, when he mutters heatedly, scoops them back up, and sticks them somewhere new.
Finally, Sherlock rips down half of the photos and wanders off to his room with his arms full of paper. He remains in there for quite some time, then emerges empty handed, eyes unfocused, and sits back down at his laptop. He skims it for a bit, picks up his phone and types frantically at it, then goes back to his laptop.
When John notices that it’s gone far past noon, he decides a break is in order, and stands to stretch. “I’m going to pick up some Chinese for lunch, do you want anything?” he asks.
Sherlock stares at him like he hasn’t realized it’s now afternoon and they have yet to eat today. Actually, in all honesty, he probably hasn’t, though he at least seems to realize it now.
“Hmm, yes, the usual. Use my card,” Sherlock says, going back to the research.
At least it’s a response. John consoles himself with the fact that Sherlock will probably be willing to absently shovel food into his mouth while he works, and if he doesn’t eat it, and least it won’t be John paying for it. “Won’t be a minute,” John tells him as he shrugs into his jacket, for all that he doubts Sherlock is listening.
He’s not expecting a reply, so he isn’t disappointed when he doesn’t get one, and just heads out to the Chinese place nearby. He checks his phone as he walks, sees the messages from Sam and Fiona last night, and realizes they’ll be heading to Baker Street soon.
John smirks, both because he’d been right about having something for them to help with (really, it’ll be a relief to hand over some of the records) and because, well, as long as he’s got Sherlock’s card.
He texts both of them, telling them he’s getting Chinese and asking if they want anything, then adds their requests along with his and Sherlock’s usual order.
When he gets back to the flat with the food, Sherlock’s still hunched over his laptop. John eyes the kitchen, then sets the food on the coffee table instead and starts pulling out cartons. He finds Sherlock’s chow mien and goes to hand it to him, but Sherlock has noticed there’s more food than usual (of course he has, he’s Sherlock) and is poking through the cartons.
He grimaces at one. “I don’t like duck.”
“It’s not for you,” John tells him, grabbing the carton and closing it back up.
Sherlock frowns. “You don’t like duck, either.”
It’s not at all surprising that Sherlock knows that (see above re: Sherlock noticing things), so it shouldn’t make John want to smile, that Sherlock knows what foods he dislikes. “It’s not for either of us. Fiona and Sam are coming over, remember?”
“Still?” Sherlock demands.
John blinks. “Yes? Why not?”
“Because there’s been another murder, things are different, and we need to-” He cuts off, brows furrowed and eyes darting a bit like he does when he’s thinking, smiles briefly, and then frowns. “We have work to do.”
John wants to ask him what that’d been, but he doubts he’ll get a straight answer, so he just rolls his eyes and says, “Yes, we do. Work that involves us staring at lists of names, which they could very easily help us with. I’ve already asked them to bring laptops.”
Sherlock opens his carton of chow mein, and stabs petulantly at it with his chopsticks. “Fine.”
John shakes his head and digs into his own food. He hasn’t finished when he hears a knock on the door. He sets down the carton he was eating from and stands, saying “That’ll be them.”
Sherlock, who’d turned most of his attention back to his laptop and has so far eaten only a few bites, ignores him.
Not unexpected, so John ignores being ignored and heads down to answer the door.
Sam and Fiona are standing there, Sam with a book bag over her shoulder.
“Hi Fiona, Sam,” John greets as he stands aside to let them in.
“Hello Dr. Watson,” Fiona returns.
“John, please,” he says, closing the door behind him and leading them upstairs.
“He’s a doctor?” he hears Sam whisper as they walk up the stairs. “You didn’t tell me he was a doctor.”
“I thought you knew,” Fiona replies.
Sam grumbles something else, but too quiet for him to hear. Then they’ve reached the top, and John gestures them in to the sofa. Sherlock doesn’t look up from his laptop.
“The food’s on the table, it should still be warm,” John says. “Ignore Sherlock, he’s just sulking.”
“I am not sulking,” Sherlock mutters, then looks up briefly. “Hello.”
“I imagine you’ve heard there’s been another murder?” John says, though he feels a bit guilty hiding that they’ve seen them at the crime scene.
“Yeah,” Sam says. “I didn’t really know her well, but two of my friends did.”
“Did you know her?” John asks Fiona.
“As well as I did the others,” Fiona replies. “If you’re asking if I knew if she had a drug habit, then no.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock says without looking up. “In theory, we’ll find out tonight.”
“Tonight?” Sam asks.
“Yes,” Sherlock replies boredly. “Tonight we’ll be looking for our killer where he’s theoretically finding his victims.”
Fiona’s eyes light up a bit.
“And by we,” John says hurriedly. “He means him and me.”
Fiona scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re going, too.”
“Absolutely not,” John says, then grimaces, because he’s made the same mistake as Sherlock had earlier. “You want to help, I get that, but there’s other things you can do. Where we’re going is dangerous.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, you only know about where you’re going because I told you about it. Meaning I’ve been there far more times than you have, and have a better idea of how dangerous it is than you do,” Fiona says.
“Yes, but have you been there actively looking for a killer?” John asks.
Fiona stays silent, looking sullen.
“Not actively, but apparently she’s been there with a killer without even realizing it, which is worse. At least now we know what we’re getting into,” Sam says.
“No, you really, really don’t,” John says quietly, looking over at Sherlock. “Any time you want to chime in here.”
“He wants us to go,” Fiona says. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned your plans right in front of us.”
John starts to protest that, but can’t, because she’s right. His eyes narrow. “Sherlock,” he says, tone low and dangerous.
Sherlock shrugs carelessly, still not looking up. “You were the one who wanted them involved in the investigation.”
John leans forward and closes Sherlock’s laptop with more force than strictly necessary. Sherlock finally looks at him, not quite startled, but almost.
“I thought we agreed we were going to keep them out of danger,” John says, voice low.
“I don’t see how,” Sherlock replies evenly. “I distinctly told you that my goal was to keep them out of our way.”
“Taking them along tonight is keeping them out of the way, then?” John asks.
“It’s not ideal. But you insisted they be involved; I’m going to use them to our best advantage,” Sherlock says.
“Use them - they’re people, Sherlock, not tools for you to risk because it’s convenient for you,” John tells him.
Sherlock’s eyes flash a bit in his irritation. “This is far from convenient, John, surely even your limited observational skills can pick up on that. This is your own fault.”
“On what planet is you being an uncaring, insensitive jerk my fault?” John demands.
Sam stands up. “I – I’m going to get some tea. Come on, Fiona, give me a hand.”
“You’re perfectly capable of making tea yourself,” Fiona replies. “I want to-”
Sam kicks her ankle. “Kitchen. Now.”
The two retreat to the kitchen. John shakes his head, still angry, but now feeling guilty for arguing about them like they weren’t even there. He turns back to Sherlock, who’s looking at him oddly.
“No,” Sherlock says. “That can hardly be your fault, considering it predates my association with you by a large margin. I was referring to our current situation.”
Now John recognizes that look. It’s his ‘What people say about me is of absolutely no concern to me, look at how little I care,’ tinged with a little bit of ‘it may be true, but it still hurts when you say it’ in his eyes.
John sighs. “I didn’t mean it like that, Sherlock.”
“Oh?” Sherlock asks. “I was supposed to interpret uncaring and insensitive in another way, then?”
“No, I definitely meant those,” John says.
Sherlock looks confused.
“Right now, in this current situation, you are being an uncaring, insensitive jerk,” John tells him. “That doesn’t mean I think you’re one all of the time, or even most of the time. That’s part of why I’m angry with you, because you’re being one now when I know just how much not one you can be.”
Sherlock still looks vaguely confused, though perhaps confused in a slightly different way. After a moment, he says, “That last sentence made no grammatical sense.”
“Yeah, well, you understood it, that’s the important bit,” John says. “And we’re not done here. The girls are not coming with us tonight.”
“Are you going to stop them, then? They’re the ones who wanted to come,” Sherlock says.
“Yes, handy, that, the way you just dropped it into the conversation knowing they’d jump on it,” John mutters.
Sherlock waves a hand dismissively. “Irrelevant. The point is that they want to go.”
“People want a lot of things, doesn’t mean they should get them,” John says. “Especially not when it might get them killed.”
Sherlock smiles at him. “That hasn’t stopped us.”
“That’s because we’re a pair of nutters,” John says, though he can’t help but smile back. “And it’s also different. I can handle myself. And so can you, when you’re not being too much of an idiot to be concerned with your own self preservation, and then you’ve got me to take care of it.”
“So take care of it for them, too,” Sherlock says, as if it were just that simple. “You’re over-estimating the amount of danger, John. This is a place that Fiona has been to many times, by herself, and even if we are looking for the killer, it’s unlikely we’ll be engaging him. And-” he cuts off.
“And?” John prompts.
“When I was younger, things would have been much easier if fewer people were willing to hide things from me for ‘my own good,’” Sherlock says quietly. Then, as if he hadn’t said that first bit at all, continues with, “Now that they know about it, you know very well that they’re going to go, either with us or on their own.”
John sighs, because Sherlock is right, as much as John doesn’t want to admit it, and as much as he doesn’t like the thought of putting the girls in danger. “Fine. But no displays of idiocy from you tonight, please, not if I have to watch out for three people.”
“Four,” Sherlock corrects.
“Four?” John asks.
“You’ll be looking out for yourself as well,” Sherlock tells him. “If I’m not allowed to be unconcerned for my own welfare, then neither are you.”
Coming from Sherlock, that’s a bit touching. He might as well have said he wanted John to stay safe.
“Four, then,” John agrees, then steps back (and when had he gotten so close to Sherlock? Christ, he hadn’t even noticed, he really needs to be more careful) and calls into the kitchen, “All right, you can stop pretending to make tea now.”
He feels strangely like a parent, calling the kids back in after an argument, and suppresses a grimace. Between thoughts like that and things like Sherlock’s comment earlier about undermining him in front of the children, it’s no wonder people assume they’re a couple.
And John is so not going down that train of thought right now.
“Who says we’re pretending?” Sam replies, as the two walk out of the kitchen with steaming mugs, then adds, “And don’t worry, I didn’t let Fi touch anything.”
“I wasn’t going to disturb anything,” Fiona mutters.
“So!” Sam says. “Tonight?”
Sherlock glances at John, then says, “Purely observational. We’ll be looking for someone connected to the university, obviously, which is where you two come in. You’ll be able to recognize people far more reliably than John or I will. Also looking for red and yellow trainers, but their absence or presence isn’t definitive. Bring something to take notes with you if you won’t remember it all.” He pauses, looking at Sam. “Record anyone you recognize, even if it’s a friend.”
Sam scowls. “Yes, thanks, I’m not an idiot.”
“No, but you do seem to be loyal, which is the same thing.” Sherlock says.
“I’ll remember that,” John mutters to him.
“You’re the exception,” Sherlock says dismissively. Then, softer, “You’re always the exception.”
They share a smile, then John looks away. Back towards Sam and Fiona, who are grinning a bit at them.
John clears his throat. “We’re not looking to engage anyone, but if anything does happen, Sherlock or I will take care of it.” He pauses, considering, then says, “Most likely, I’ll take care of it.”
Fiona’s eyes are shining in a way that John recognizes, and he sighs and makes a mental note to keep an eye on her. Sam, at least, looks serious and determined, but there’s an air of excitement about her as well. Yeah, this is a bad idea.
“In the meantime,” John says. “We have other work to do.”
“Two lists,” Sherlock says. “One, sales records of the trainers the killer wears. Two, University of Westminster students. We’re looking for names that match.”
They divide up the remainder of the lists and turn their attention to matching, munching on the Chinese food as they work. After awhile, John decides a quick break is essential, and he gathers up the rest of the Chinese food to put away.
Fiona walks into the kitchen as he’s making room in the fridge, carrying the empty cartons he’d left behind.
“I thought I’d help you,” she says, after standing slightly uncertainly for a bit.
He raises one eyebrow. “I’m still not going to let you at Sherlock’s equipment.”
Her face falls a little.
John grins. “But you can look all you want.”
She leaves the cartons on the counter with a smile and comes to stand behind him, peering into the fridge.
“Sam went in here to get milk, but she wouldn’t let me look at any of the interesting things,” Fiona says.
John bends down to open the crisper, where he knows Sherlock’s got something involving mould (non-toxic, he’s been assured) growing on meat (flesh, Sherlock insists, but it’s not human, so John prefers to think of it as meat). He steps back as Fiona leans in closer to examine the thing, fingers locked together behind her back (probably to resist the temptation to touch).
“The bottom shelf and the drawers are Sherlock’s,” he tells her as he goes to throw the empty cartons away. “Oh, but don’t open the other drawer, apparently whatever he’s got in there is sensitive to movement.”
After a few moments, she says, almost wistfully, “You let him do things like this all the time?”
John chuckles. “It’s not so much me letting him do them as him doing them and me limiting the space in the fridge where non-edible things can go.”
“You don’t mind it, then?” she asks.
John has to think about that for a moment. “No,” he says at last. “I don’t. It makes things interesting, at least. Sometimes I mind when he does things like leave a head in the fridge without telling me, but I went to medical school, and I was in the army. I’m used to people bringing back weird things.” Even a head was better than the camel spider Ross had brought back to base and kept hidden under his bunk.
She looks up at him at that last bit, eyes narrowed slightly in contemplation. Then she asks, “May I see your gun?”
He blinks, surprised.
“I’ve never seen a real one before yours. I’m curious,” she says, then adds, “I only want to look.”
John shrugs. As far as requests go, it’s not really among the most random or strange he’s heard. (Most of those belong to Sherlock, but a few go to his army buddies and rugby mates.) “Sure. Come on, it’s up in my room.”
He leads Fiona through the living room (pausing briefly to do a double take when he sees Sherlock actually sitting next to Sam, having a conversation with her) and up to his room. Fiona stands hesitantly by the door while he pulls the gun out from the drawer of his bedside table. The safety’s on and it’s unloaded, but he still makes sure to keep it pointed at the ground as he shows it to her.
She steps closer, but not too close, eyes darting over it.
“Why do you want to see a real gun?” he asks.
“So I can tell the difference,” she replies.
John smiles. “Looking at one gun won’t do that.”
“No,” she agrees. “But it’ll help.”
When she tires of looking, her attention abandons the gun and returns to him. “You were in the army.”
“Yes,” he says cautiously, because he’s learned statements like that have a tendency to be followed by strange or uncomfortable questions.
“What was it like?” she asks.
He relaxes slightly. “It wasn’t really like just one thing. Parts of it were exciting, challenging, some parts were boring, some were just difficult, occasionally it was fun, and sometimes it was just – horrible.”
Fiona frowns. “Elaborate,” she requests, then adds, “Please.”
John chuckles. “Training was hard work, but it was a lot of fun, too. Bunch of us all together, we had some pretty good times. When we went over –” He shrugs. “Some people thought it was still a game. Lots of them thought they were invincible. Most learned otherwise pretty quickly. It was hot, and the work was hard, but worth it. I’m a doctor, I didn’t see much combat at first, though I was trained for it. Then I got assigned to a – special unit. Great bunch, you know. We all still managed to have some fun.”
“You liked it,” Fiona says.
“Yes,” John agrees. “Not all of it, but I felt like I was doing something good there. Something worthwhile.”
“Why did you leave, then?” she asks.
John shuts down, just a little. He can feel himself doing it, but he can’t stop it. “I got shot.”
The curious gleam is in Fiona’s eyes again. “Oh? Where?”
“Left shoulder,” John replies.
“Can I see?” she asks.
John stares at her. “I don’t think that’d be appropriate.”
She looks confused for a moment, then brightens. “Oh! No, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to take your shirt off. I’m not interested in men.”
“No, Fiona, it’s generally inappropriate to ask strangers to take off their shirts and show you their scars,” John says.
“You’re not a stranger,” Fiona says. “You said I could come over and have tea any time.”
John sighs. “Even someone you’re really close to may be uncomfortable with things like that. It’s a sensitive subject.”
“Traumatic injuries can be,” Fiona agrees. Then comprehension passes briefly over her face, before she looks troubled. “Oh. I – but you’ve been so forthcoming, I assumed it didn’t bother you. I –”
“It’s okay,” John says. “But I’m not going to show it to you. Sherlock hasn’t even seen it.” At least not for longer than the two seconds it takes for John to get from the bathroom to his room.
Fiona looks surprised. “But, Sam says – oh.” She cuts off, then asks hesitantly, “Will you tell me how you got it?”
John looks at her. That’s another thing he hasn’t told Sherlock, mostly because one, Sherlock hasn’t asked, and two, John assumes Sherlock already knows. After a long moment, he says, “I was out with my unit. We were ambushed. There were bullets flying everywhere, IEDs going off. Three of us were down, I saw to two. Got shot tending the third, didn’t have time to take out the bullet because he was in bad shape.”
“Did he make it?” Fiona asks, voice soft.
“He might have, if we hadn’t gotten captured.” He’s not ready to talk about this, he realizes. It’s why he hasn’t told Sherlock, even though he suspects Sherlock already knows. More than that, he especially doesn’t want to talk about it with anyone who isn’t Sherlock. What that says, John doesn’t really know. He shrugs. “We got out. I got sent home, and now here I am.”
She watches him for a moment. “Do you like it here? Do you think it’s worthwhile?”
“Absolutely,” John replies immediately, then offers her a smile. “And we have work to do. Besides, I don’t even want to know what Sherlock will tell Sam if we leave them alone much longer.”
Sherlock barely notices when John goes into the kitchen – he does notice, of course, he almost always notices John, even when John thinks he’s ignoring him; it’s just hardly worth reacting to – but when Fiona follows him a few moments later, more of his attention is diverted. He watches the kitchen briefly, eyes narrowed. When they don’t emerge, he attempts to return to name-matching, but he finds his concentration slipping. Sherlock stands, pacing over to the wall of pictures – partial wall of pictures, now – and then glances back towards the kitchen.
He trusts John not to allow Fiona to disturb any of his experiments. He does. But there’s something – they still haven’t left the kitchen, why, what are they doing there that they couldn’t do out here-
Frustrated, Sherlock stalks over to the sofa and sits next to Sam, looking over her shoulder at her laptop screen to see how much progress she’s made.
Sam continues working for a minute, then says, “Something you need?”
“Merely checking to ensure you’re performing adequately,” he tells her. “Continue.”
“Uh-huh,” she says. “You know that’s really distracting, right?”
“You should get used to working under pressure, or your information tonight won’t be valuable,” he says.
She sighs, then shifts slightly so she’s angled a bit more towards him. “You’re kind of bad at this.”
Sherlock is affronted. “Bad at ensuring everything is progressing smoothly on this case?”
She stares at him. “You’re really over here just to check up on me.”
Now he’s irritated. “I dislike having to repeat myself.”
“And Fiona being in the kitchen with John has absolutely nothing to do with your timing?” she asks.
Sherlock blinks at her, grudgingly impressed at her observational skills. It had been his distraction at – at Fiona being so close to his experiments and out of his sight that had lead to him being unable to focus, which in turn brought on his desire to see Sam’s progress. Not that he’ll admit to that. “How does that make me bad at this?”
“I think we’re talking about two different ‘this’es,” she says.
He scowls at her. “What ‘this’ are you talking about?”
“You’re over here because you’re trying to make John jealous,” she says.
Sherlock scoffs. Her observations may have been sound, but her conclusions were considerably less so. “Ridiculous.”
She raises her eyebrows at him. “You’re jealous that Fiona’s in there with him, so you’re over here with me to make him jealous.”
“Wrong,” he says with a sneer, ignoring the odd twist in his stomach. “On both accounts. I am not jealous, nor do I expect John would be jealous should he see us together.” That doesn’t come out as scathing as he’d intended. It’s not exactly rueful, either, but it’s some mix of both, and that makes him frown.
“Oh,” she says, like she understands, and that’s even worse. “Do you think it’ll work on Fiona?” she asks wistfully.
“You want to make Fiona jealous? With me?” Sherlock asks, surprised.
Sam flushes. “I – didn’t think before I said that. It’s dumb, I know.”
“No,” he says absently. “It’s not.” He isn’t sure he’s ever been used to make someone jealous before. “Novel.”
She grins a bit. “Glad you think so.”
In the periphery of his vision, Sherlock sees John and Fiona exit the kitchen. He doesn’t look up, but he watches them out of the corner of his eyes. “Why?”
“Why what?” Sam asks.
“Why do you want-” Sherlock starts, but stops when John and Fiona don’t remain in the living room, but instead go upstairs. Towards John’s bedroom.
Sam must see something in his expression, because she pats his knee and leaves her hand there.
“Don’t worry,” she tells him. “Fiona’s not interested in men like that. I don’t think she’s interested in really anyone like that, actually, at least not now.”
Sherlock scowls, shifting so that her hand slides off. “I’m not the least bit concerned about who she’s interested in. Why do you want to make her jealous?”
“I don’t,” Sam says. “Not really. I just – I like her. I’ll get over it.”
“Why?” he asks.
She looks at him. “Are you really asking me why I like her?”
Sherlock frowns. “Yes.” He is genuinely curious, as to what Sam sees in Fiona. And perhaps there is some selfish interest in there. He had been in a similar situation to Fiona’s at university, very much on the outside, and part of him wonders what attraction someone like that could hold for someone like Sam, who travels in a very different social circle and is friends with people like Anna and Danny.
Her eyes narrow at him, jaw set. “Why shouldn’t I like her? I like her because I do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I shouldn’t have to explain myself.”
Her vehemence is somewhat surprising. “I was only curious.”
“Yeah, well, we have work to do, don’t we?” she says, then frowns. “Speaking of which, these names. They’re not just students, they’re all members of the football and rugby teams.”
Ah. Sherlock had wondered if she’d notice that. “They are.”
“You believe it’s one of them, then?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says.
She nods, looking back at the laptop.
He raises an eyebrow. “No denials? These are your friends.”
“I know them, that doesn’t mean they’re all my friends,” Sam says. “I don’t want to think any of them are capable of murder, but I guess it must be possible.”
“I see,” Sherlock says. “Anyone you think might be more possible than others?”
Sam shakes her head. “No. I’ve seen some of them be cruel, but that doesn’t mean they kill people. And I’m not about to accuse someone of murder because of speculation. We stay out of the gossip chain.”
He scoffs. “Really.”
She smiles a bit. “It’s impossible to completely avoid, true, but I meant the cruel bits.”
“I sincerely doubt your friends are as committed to that notion as you are,” he says.
She looks ready to protest, then deflates a little. “No. You’re probably right. Lacey’s just as against it as I am, though occasionally she talks about listening to it so we at least know what’s being said. And not Sawyer, he likes the gossip, but he’d never be cruel. Finn –” There’s a slight hitch in her voice before she continues. “He never took any of it seriously, always treated it like a joke he could make go away by laughing at it. But Anna, Danny, even Kayla sometimes, I think the only reason they don’t participate is because they know how Lacey and I feel about it. They probably even do participate, sometimes.”
“Then why are you friends with them?” he asks.
“Because I know them, and they’re good people,” she says. “Everyone’s mean to people sometimes, and in their minds, they probably don’t say anything the other person doesn’t deserve. I’m not excusing it-” she adds hurriedly. “But you can be friends with someone and still dislike some things about them.”
Sherlock wonders if she’d say the same thing if she’d heard their conversation at the crime scene. But he’s lost interest in this conversation – he has no desire to discuss the characteristics of Sam’s friends – and his focus has turned toward the fact that if John and Fiona are upstairs, it means that they are no longer in the kitchen.
He stands, muttering something about continuing on with the work – he’s not entirely sure what, his focus is more on the need, now that he’s connected John and Fiona’s whereabouts with the kitchen being empty, to check on his experiments. Some of them are very sensitive, and even accidental contact could have disrupted them, which John may not have known or remembered and Sherlock knows he won’t be able to focus again until he’s made sure nothing has been disturbed. If he’s being honest, he likely won’t be able to completely focus again until John and Fiona have returned to the living room, but for once, he is disregarding his policy to always be as honest as possible with himself, and refusing to acknowledge that.
Sherlock heads into the kitchen, determinedly checking everything he’s currently working on – and the items he’s storing for future experiments – to ensure nothing’s been disturbed. He’s delicately sliding open one of the crisper drawers when he hears footsteps enter the kitchen.
“I didn’t touch anything,” Fiona says sulkily from behind him. “Why does everyone seem to think I can’t control myself?”
“Because you’re too eager,” Sherlock says absently as he carefully closes the drawer again and looks up at her. “It leads people to believe you won’t be able to show restraint.”
“I’m perfectly capable of showing restraint,” she says, but there’s something almost guilty about her expression.
Sherlock narrows his eyes at her. “You did touch something.”
She glares at him. “I did not. Not everything is about you.”
Sherlock pauses. If her guilt wasn’t about his experiments, then– “What were you doing in his room?”
The not-quite-guilt increases briefly, then fades as she smirks. “Can’t you figure it out?”
His eyes sweep over her for a split second – observing hair not mussed, clothes in the same state as they’d been when she went up – before he catches himself and scowls. Absolutely ridiculous. Sherlock knows logically that John would hardly be taking a nineteen year old girl up to his room for any sort of – physical relations during a case. Likely not at all, but especially not during a case. That it occurred to him at all means-
Sherlock hesitates. There is the distinct possibility that it means he is a bit jealous. He dislikes it, though he must admit that he knows why. Sherlock has accepted that he is very much fond of John, for many reasons, not the least of which is that John actually likes Sherlock, his lifestyle, the ideas Sherlock gets and the things he does that everyone else writes off as mad. Granted, John often says they’re mad as well, but he does it with a grin while he’s right alongside Sherlock doing whatever it is he’s saying is mad and enjoying it. And, of course, there’s the fact that John not only thinks he’s brilliant, but has no qualms about telling him that.
Objectively, Sherlock knows there must be other people John thinks are clever, but Sherlock has yet to be faced with one. He’s faced with one now, however, as Fiona is definitely clever. She’s also young, less skilled at portraying confidence and appearing to be self-assured than Sherlock is. It’s only natural that John, with his instinct to protect and care for others, would be drawn to her.
And Sherlock is jealous. John is his only friend; Sherlock selfishly wants all of that to himself. He doesn’t mind John’s other friends as much, because they give him a different kind of friendship. But – and even though he knows logically this isn’t true, Fiona isn’t as clever as he is, doesn’t do what he does, doesn’t have his accomplishments, skills, contacts, isn’t what he’s made himself to be, doesn’t know John like he does, he can’t help but think – Fiona could offer John everything Sherlock can. And more, as Sherlock has ample evidence that shows John prefers the company of women.
So, yes. Sherlock is jealous. At least he has a name for the odd feelings he’s been ignoring during this case. And now he can push it aside and focus on the case, on solving it, with the extra incentive that the quicker he does so, the quicker Fiona will be gone.
“Unnecessary,” Sherlock says, finally answering Fiona’s question. “As long as you didn’t upset him or do anything to impede his functioning at full capacity tonight, what you were doing is irrelevant.”
Fiona sulks, likely disappointed he didn’t take the bait. She watches him check on a few more things, then asks, quite suddenly, “Can I have him?”
Sherlock looks over at her. “What?”
“John,” she clarifies. “Can I have him?”
Sherlock is horrified. “Absolutely not.”
Fiona frowns at him. “I’ll give him back.”
Sherlock doesn’t find that any more comforting. “I don’t share.”
Fiona’s shoulders droop a bit. “It isn’t fair. He appreciates this, you, why can’t I have that as well?”
Sherlock relaxes the tiniest bit as he realizes that it’s not John, specifically, she wants, it’s a friend. “You already have that,” he tells her, in a tone that says that should be quite obvious.
It apparently is, because she knows exactly what he’s talking about. She looks away, and says quietly, “I don’t think I really do. She’s with me now, because of the investigation, but when it’s over.” Fiona shrugs. “She won’t need me anymore.”
Sherlock frowns. “You believe she’ll merely abandon you after the case is over?”
Fiona looks up to glare at him. “Of course not. She’ll likely try, but she has many friends. She only met me because of the investigation. After it’s over, there’s no need for her to continue to wish to be mine.”
Sherlock raises one eyebrow. “John has other friends, and only met you because of the case. Based on your evidence, he’s likely to do the same.”
Fiona shakes her head. “He’s already given me his number, and said I could text him if I needed anything. And said I could come over for tea whenever I wanted.”
Sherlock resists the urge to sigh, because of course John did. “I see. And Sam gave you no such assurances of continued association?”
She looks uncertain. “No. She did.”
“You believe John but not her?” he asks.
She looks away. “I can’t-” she cuts off, then stays silent.
“Ah,” he says. Her reluctance is obvious. She wants Sam’s friendship, more than she will admit, too much to allow herself to believe it will happen. “Setting yourself up for disappointment, then?”
“What?” she asks.
“If you never act on anything where the outcome is uncertain, you will never accomplish anything,” Sherlock tells her.
“You don’t-” she starts angrily, then stops and looks at him consideringly. “Sam says-”
He frowns at her. “She says what?”
“Nothing,” Fiona says. “You should follow your own advice.”
Sherlock has no idea what that means. And, even more frustratingly, she turns on her heels and heads back into the living room before he can formulate a response, leaving him staring after her with narrowed eyes. His only solutions now are to ask Fiona what she’d been talking about or to casually mention the conversation to John and see what he makes of it. In most circumstances, he’d have few qualms about the John option, but this – he’s strangely reluctant to tell John about it.
He’s becoming tired of this. There is a case, it is much more important than talking to these girls and attempting the impossible task of making them make sense.
Right. No more distractions, they are going to get through the sales records before leaving for the stakeout, and then Sherlock will be that much closer to solving the case. He’s already so close, so very close, just a few more points he’s not entirely sure on – all right, two major points, as he’s not quite certain of the exact identity of either the killer or the recipient of the message, but he’s narrowing in on them, and it won’t be very long now.
Not long at all, and then Sam and Fiona will be gone, and Sherlock can move right on to the next case, without having to stop and think about anything related to John.