John ignored the pull on his leg muscle, just as he tended to ignore everything else when running after Sherlock. The only thing he could focus on was not letting Sherlock get so far ahead that he lost track of him. Especially not with the sort they were chasing, blokes who didn't mind getting rid of innocent—or not so innocent—bystanders.
Irritatingly, the two men they were after seemed to know the city almost as well as Sherlock, leading them on a merry chase through the streets and alleys, before abruptly splitting up and heading in different directions. John wasn't particularly fond of Sherlock haring off without someone to watch his back, but there was little choice... John would never hear the end of it if he let "his guy" get away.
Pushing himself faster, John whipped around a corner, saw a flash, and heard the crack of a gunshot. Military reflexes didn't save him entirely, but they did manage to lessen the damage. He staggered back against the brick wall of the alleyway, feeling the burn of a bullet along the side of his neck.
Hearing fleeing footfalls, John cursed. He dug in his pocket for his handkerchief and pressed it against his neck, trying to staunch the blood sliding beneath his shirt collar.
Still might be able to catch him. But as John tried to move away from the wall, his body decided a steady surface was essential at the moment. Providing a convincing argument was swirling grey dots in his vision, so he acquiesced, sliding down the brick to rest on the ground—just for a moment, just until he got the dizziness under control.
He hadn't been sitting long when he heard hurried footsteps approaching. John fumbled for his pistol, in case his attacker had doubled back. His name was shouted by a familiar voice, and he allowed his gun to drop.
"Over here," John croaked, letting it trail off into a groan at the strain on his injury.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock asked, breathlessly.
John looked up, confused. "Did you already get yours?" he asked, trying not to let jealously cloud his tone.
"Don't be obtuse." Sherlock squatted beside him.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock repeated, holding John by his arms.
John started to nod than thought better of it. "Yeah, it's just a scratch. But he got away."
Sherlock ignored the statement as his eyes took in the rapidly darkening cloth. He scowled and removed his scarf, placing it over the handkerchief as he applied more pressure.
John flinched and did his best not to pull away. Great, not only did he let a criminal escape, he'll have ruined Sherlock's favorite scarf. Maybe he could stay at Sarah's tonight to avoid the impending rebuke.
Or maybe, John thought, his eyes drifting closed, I could just sleep here. He dropped away to the sound of Sherlock yelling at someone about an ambulance.
Without opening his eyes, John knew he was in hospital. And somehow Sherlock knew he was awake.
"If you insist on getting hurt, you should at least, as a doctor, have the acuity to grasp when the wound requires urgent medical attention."
John struggled to remember what had put him here. Oh, yeah. He tried to move his head and found it encased in bandages. A straw was brought to his lips and he sipped gratefully, letting the water slide down his parched throat. "But it just grazed me."
"It took a five millimeter gouge out of your neck," Sherlock corrected, "a body part fairly essential to your survival." He placed the glass on the table and stepped back, hands clasped behind his back.
Embarrassed, John tried to shift Sherlock's attention. "What about the men we were chasing?" he asked.
Sherlock waved a careless hand. "Lestrade can do something useful for once and track them down. You were bleeding out, John."
John blinked, feeling a flush of warmth go through him. He watched as Sherlock's eyes drifted again to the bandage, mouth turning down in a frown.
"Looks like I'll have a new scar," John observed lightly.
Sherlock tilted John's head to the side and lifted the bandage. He looked beneath it appraisingly, as if committing it to memory. "I'll add it to the list," he said.
John didn't think he was joking.
Driving will always be a novelty to John. There’s the clunk of the door shutting, the whisper of the seat-belt, and the rich click of it locking into place. The ignition stirs, fires, and John is seventeen again; ready to screech away from the testing centre at seventy miles an hour and leave anyone or anything that can’t keep up far behind him.
He doesn’t drive much though – he’s scared that the novelty will fade in the dirty reality of insurance comparison websites, congestion charges, and £1.28 per litre petrol.
Being a married man is a novelty just the same.
Sarah has tanned to the colour of expensive coffee with just a dash of cream. His favourite honeymoon picture – him in the pink Hawaiian shirt, her in the pale blue sundress – sits in a new silver frame on his desk. He polishes his finger-prints off it in the morning as he logs on to his computer. It catches his eye every time he swivels his chair.
Wife. Mrs. Watson. Married. They’re all novel words. He still stumbles over them as his mouth tries to fit them around the pleased smile that’s taking up all the room. When he goes to the newsagents, he does so as a married man. When he walks in the park, it’s a married man that does so. If a bee stings him while he’s there, it’s stinging a married man.
But his wife is in constant use, so to speak. He can’t lock Sarah away in a garage and save her for special occasions. Sarah is a living, breathing part of his life. Her tan will fade, he’ll stop noticing the twinkle of her engagement ring, and in a few months he’ll go for days without registering their photo on his desk. It’ll be part of the background furniture, and so will she.
The newlywed sex will become married people sex, and when he talks to his Rugby mates the phrase “C’mon guys, I’m a married man!” will lose its exclamation mark and gain a sigh for punctuation instead.
Novelty will become reality. Or even worse, it will become stability.
He wonders if Sherlock will be talking to him again by that point.
Of course, it’s not easy to figure out why Sherlock isn’t talking to him precisely. No two of Sherlock’s sulks are the same. It’s been two months since the wedding, four since the engagement, six since they nearly got blown up... John and Sherlock, that is. Sarah would have put her foot down about a second attempt on her life. She’d jokingly suggested he change his vows to ‘love, honour, and not get myself involved in crazy adventures.’ She’d been joking about the vows, but not about the adventures.
He’d been nearly blown up, she reminds him. That was why he’d stepped things up with her at all. He’d needed more normality in his life. They’d got engaged. Then eloped.
Then Sherlock had stopped talking to him.
The problem was with Sherlock one never knew whether he wasn’t talking to you because you’d upset him or because he was plotting to take down an Argentinian crime ring and saw no reason to speak to anyone who didn’t know the Spanish for ‘Can I have directions to the nearest crime ring to the hotel?’
He has to hand it to Sherlock, there’s always something new going on with him.
That… is a dangerous thought. His mouth dries whenever he thinks it.
The novelty would never wear off with Sherlock. New adventures. New deductions. His mind never thought the same thought twice. He was a car that shot through a thirty zone at a hundred miles an hour and never got caught. He would never be part of the furniture because when Sherlock was around nobody gave a damn about the furnishings.
John had traded in genuine newness for novelty; for a nice wife and the vague idea of purchasing an economic family Estate he’d feel a traitor to his teenage self for sitting in. He’d done it because new was hard and novelty is easy. People expect novelty to wear off and for you to embrace stability. Novelty is normal. Newness is… explosive.
All it would take is one text. He could go back to it.
It would upset Sarah, but she’s still living in the novelty of having a husband. Sooner or later she’ll have to face reality.
Novelty fades. Reality is painful. Stability is stagnation.
Newness is John’s only hope.
When Sherlock shows up for breakfast in the morning, John can't help but stare. When Sherlock doesn't say anything, John tries to speak up and fails.
"S-sherlock?" John finally manages to say.
Sherlock looks up from John's laptop. "Yes," he drawls out.
"You - erm - seem to have gotten a haircut?"
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Brilliant deduction, John," he says before turning back to the laptop.
And the thing is that it's not just a haircut. Sherlock's hair is now ginger. Ginger, John's mind screams. Sherlock's cut his hair so that it's much shorter, it's not curly, and it's ginger.
"Why the haircut?"
Sherlock doesn't reply and John sighs. He needs more tea.
The next morning, John's staring again.
"Well, what now?" Sherlock finally snaps at him after John's probably been staring at him.
"Um. New wardrobe?" John asks because Sherlock's wearing jeans. To be more specific, Sherlock's wearing skinny jeans and good heavens, Sherlock looks good in skinny jeans. He's also wearing a much more casual, normal shirt.
Sherlock doesn't say much to explain his clothes other than a "it's for a case" mutter of some sorts. John decides he needs more tea.
Sherlock doesn't stop wearing jeans for the next whole week. He doesn't do anything about his hair either. It's all... ginger. Normally, John shouldn't find this odd at all. Sherlock has done a lot of worse stuff while working on cases or experiments.
It's just that Sherlock kind of looks really hot.
It's not like he's melting dead people's toenails or anything stupid. He's wearing every day, normal people's shirts and nice jeans. John is confused as to how this helps out any case at all, but he's not complaining about that. He is, however, very distracted by this.
John whips out his mobile and sends a text to Lestrade.
What case did you give to Sherlock?
Lestrade texts back.
I didn't give him a case.
Oh. Well, now. That's weird. John's gone on Sherlock's website and no one's requested he take up a case. Sherlock's too distracted by some experiment to check his own email, so John does it most of the time.
Sherlock isn't on a case, so why is he wearing bloody denim?
John's phone rings. It's a text from Mycroft.
Doctor Watson, I haven't given Sherlock a case. You can most certainly determine the reason behind my brother's latest actions for yourself. Do try to keep up.
John thinks that Mycroft is exceptionally creepy and mean. John hasn't a clue about what Sherlock's doing but he's going to sit and wait until Sherlock gets home and then there will be an interrogation (which is supposed to work).
The interrogation doesn't really work, in retrospect.
"Hmmn?" Sherlock says when he comes home.
"Why are you dressed like that? I know you haven't a case from anyone."
Sherlock snorts before waking up to John. "Perhaps I was bored," he suggests.
"No, the wall's not been shot at for quite some time now. You have no case," John tries again.
"Is it distracting you, John?" Sherlock asks.
"Yes. Wait, no. I just wanted to ask."
Sherlock rolls his eyes and reaches out touch John's hair. "I thought you would have liked my new wardrobe."
"Well, yes, but hang on. Have you doing this to get my attention or something?"
When Sherlock kisses John, the answer is clear. Yes, yes, and yes, Sherlock answers John for quite some time.
“I’m sorry we missed the flight, but it is not my fault that this damn language allows one number to have 3 distinctively different ones in it. Gate 4-20-15 is apparently Gate 95,” John said quietly from the last chair in one of the many rows.
“I simply cannot believe that you don’t know French!” the tall one shouted. This drew the attention of everyone in the gate area. He was pacing.
“I took a class when I was a kid but I don’t remember much of it.”
“That seems like something you should remember! How can you criticize me for not knowing small insignificant things when the only language you are fluent in is your native tongue?”
“I know a bit of Dari and Pashtu.”
“Knowing how to say ‘Doctor. Don’t shoot.’ doesn’t make you fluent in a language, John!” He flung up his hands in exasperation.
“Well how many languages are you ‘fluent’ with, Sherlock?” John asked. The response was curt but with a hint of frustration. He was still remarkably calm given the situation.
Sherlock was oblivious to the irritation. “Nineteen. English, French, Gaelic, Welsh, Germen, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Mandarin-“John cut him off.
“Wait, you speak Mandarin? Why the hell didn’t you know about the numbers with the Chinese mob?”
“I can speak those languages, John. I can’t read them.” He said this like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I’ve always found pictorial based languages irrelevant.” John gaped at this for a moment before Sherlock continued. “Few keyboards support them,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Sherlock, how the hell-!” John shouted but stopped short. He put a hand to his forehead. A whisper that could have been “of course” escaped his lips.
“Oh come on, John. How many times has your knowledge of the solar system helped you in life?” Sherlock ranted. “I can count dozens of times that knowing French has helped me.”
“Not least of which,” Sherlock continued without hindrance, “involves convincing the night guard at Opéra de Paris to let us backstage. It would have taken us weeks to find the arsonist otherwise.”
“I know that, Sherlock.” Silence fell before John continued. “Look, I’m sorry I made us miss the flight, OK? Just sit down.”
Sherlock plopped down in the seat next to his friend. He slid down the chair until he was almost parallel to the floor and flung an arm over his eyes.
“You should have woken me up when the call came.”
“That was the first sleep you had since we got here. You needed it.”
“I also need to get home.” He flung John’s word back at him. John looked momentarily taken aback.
“I’m sorry,” John said sincerely.
Sherlock seemed to relax a bit at the apology.
“These chairs are uncomfortable.”
“I know,” John said with a dismissive shake of his head. “We’ve only got two more hours until the next flight. You’ll survive.”
“We’ll make it a productive two hours then.”
“What…” He over to his friend, but he was already gone. His long strides brought him in front of a woman across the gate room before John knew what was going on. His hands were on hers for a second before pulling away.
“You’ll have to manage with the American bastardization of the spelling, unless you want to buy your own.” It was only then that John realized why he had grabbed her hands. Sherlock threw the English-to-French dictionary to John who caught it effortlessly.
“That’s mine,” the woman said weakly.
“Oh, don’t give me that. I’m sure one trip abroad is enough to know that a change of scenery isn’t going to magically fill the hole in your life. Perhaps a divorce lawyer would do more good.”
She gaped at him for a moment before he swiftly turned. He was seated before she could respond. All that was left was a swirl of coat tails.
“Tu aurez à apprendre quelque temps. Tu me remercierez plus tard, John,“ Sherlock said in flawless French. Light twinkled in his eyes.
“I’m not going to learn French just to amuse you.”
“No,” John said. “You are NOT doing this. This isn’t funny, Sherlock.”
“Tu ferais mieux de s'habituer à cette langue. Je ne m'arrêterai pas jusqu'à ce tu découvrez.”
“Fine.” John’s mouth was set in a grim line as he looks down at the book and starts flipping through pages. “Vous… etes…” He sighs and heavily closes the book. “… an arse.”
The thing about wounds is that they’re never old. It’s a matter of definition. As they age, they simply fade out of existence. They become scars.
The thing about scars it that they’re never new, definitionally speaking. They’re created gradually, fade in rather than out, but in the moment of actualization have already become relics.
We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes, John Watson recites as he regards himself in the mirror. Between the uniform and the haircut, he doesn’t recognise himself. That’s not quite true, is it? It isn’t that he doesn’t recognise himself, it’s that he does. Which, all told, is worse.
Ah well. Might as well get on with it. He’s always considered Thoreau a sentimental fool.
John wonders if he’ll ever become accustomed to nighttime in Afghanistan. It’s quiet often enough, but occasionally it’s rather spectacularly not. Each time he starts from sleep he has a moment of disorientation, expecting to look outside and see the familiar lights of London traffic. Each time understanding filters through his brain it feels unwelcome, like an intrusion.
He doesn’t acclimatize, exactly—not enough to feel comfortable—but he learns to pretend that he has, for the sake of getting on with things. If he’s been awakened it’s likely that his services are required, so he provides them. He serves a function, and it distracts him enough that he doesn’t need to analyze his motivations in doing so. The pretense gradually becomes habitual.
He tries to convince himself that habitual pretense is the same as comfort.
It almost works.
John is reaching down to help a man to his feet when the the bullet enters his shoulder. The first sensation isn’t tearing muscle and connective tissue, though that does happen. It’s a slamming thud, like a rugby tackle. It feels familiar.
John remembers hearing, somewhere, that an optimist looks at a wound and sees a scar, while a pessimist looks at a scar and sees a wound. John considers himself a realist, so he does his best not to see either.
The whole thing is a bit of an existential paradox. John doesn’t have time for existential paradoxes. Or, rather, he does. He has nothing but time, nothing to do except lie in this hospital cot and wait. Which, all told, is worse.
Paradoxes require manipulation, need to be rolled over and over in the mind, constantly reexamined and kept open. He could keep at it endlessly, if he allowed himself, keep the insight fresh and raw and gaping until it poisoned him from the inside out.
Best to avoid it altogether, then.
How does one set about growing scar tissue?
He’s a doctor, after all. He knows that if he can just let it be, doesn’t pick at it, it will heal clean.
John wonders if he will ever become accustomed to nighttime in London. Each time he dreams the desert it feels fresh and untried, like he’s just stepped back from inventing an entire landscape of chaos. Each time he starts from sleep he has a moment of disorientation, expecting to look outside and see an echo of the scene that just played out behind his eyes. The London outside his window inexplicably makes his hand shake, intensifies the ache in his shoulder. Lying in the dark he can feel the knotted tissue there, pulsing with the heat and pain of his disquiet.
He convinces himself that he’s grateful to be home. He learns to pretend it’s true. But when he shudders himself out of a nightmare there is no one requiring his services, nothing to be getting on with, and it leaves room for doubt. He remains unconvinced of his own pretense.
He develops a limp and buys a cane. He holds it in the hand he doesn’t use to aim his pistol.
Wounds fail to become scars under two circumstances. First, if the wound is fatal (John knew that one already). Second, if the wound is constantly kept raw and never given a chance to heal.
It’s remarkably like having one’s skull peeled open, he thinks, regarding his new flatmate across the taxi’s wide seat. The pale gaze is sharp and piercing, intrusive in the way being shot ought to have been.
It’s bright and fresh and surgical, already clean, and it doesn’t turn away.
I wake to find sun streaming in through strange curtains into a room I don’t recognise. I appear to be unhurt and in good health, ruling out the possibility of being in hospital after injury or overdose. I am unrestrained, suggesting I have not been captured. And now I look more closely, there are some items that I do recognise in the room, most especially a photo of John and me (taken a few months after we moved into Baker Street) sitting on the bureau. The most likely explanation then is that I have deleted knowledge of my location from my brain because it is unimportant.
There are some clothes laid neatly on the chair. I do not recognise them but on examination I see that Mrs Hudson has helpfully written my name on all of the labels. They are for me then. I do not pretend to understand why she seems to have felt the need to replace my wardrobe – some things even I cannot decipher.
I dress myself and head down the stairs towards some sort of lounge area. Two elderly gentlemen and one ancient lady sleep in chairs placed around the room. I sit myself in a leather-backed armchair.
I start trying to recall why I am in this place when I am interrupted by a woman in a green uniform who tells me that I have a visitor, a Doctor Watson. As she is still finishing her sentence this doctor walks stiffly into the room, an elderly man leaning rather heavily on a stick. I tell him that I do not feel unwell and so do not have need of his presence. He seems to almost flinch before telling me that he is not here to treat me for any ailment. So! He is yet another one of my interfering brother’s agents.
I shall soon see him off as I have all of the others before him.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
He looks surprised – although something in his expression makes me think that the surprise is forced, faked. Perhaps Mycroft has warned him.
His answer is as abrupt as my question.
“But you have not done much surgery since, I think.”
“No. General practice.”
The doctor is still calm, composed. This will not do: I have no time for Mycroft’s meddling.
“You were widowed recently.”
That makes the man start. He looks shaken.
“Not quite,” he replies, shakily, “but… sometimes… it seems as if… How did you know?”
“It was obvious. Your military bearing would be recognised by all but the blindest of simpletons. Given your age you were unlikely to have served in Northern Ireland or Kosovo, at least during periods of active fighting, leaving Afghanistan or Iraq as the most obvious choices. It is unlikely that you have done any surgery since given how much your hand is currently shaking. And you have lost your wife in some way recently. You have shaving foam just under your left jawline – your wife would have noticed and so you would have cleaned it off before leaving the house. If she had left, it is unlikely you would still be wearing the ring, never mind be caressing it absent-mindedly as you are doing. Am I right?”
“Really? That’s not what most people say. Most people tell me to shut up.” This doctor is very nearly interesting.
“Well it is. It’s brilliant.”
“But was I right about it all?”
“Nearly everything,” he says with a small, almost sad smile. “But it is my husband who… I no longer have.”
Normally I would push for more, demand to know why exactly he chose those words – an unlikely euphemism to hear from a doctor if discussing death – but something inside me pities the man and so I remain silent.
He sits silently too, until he suddenly seems to pull himself together and asks, “What about her then?” nodding to the woman asleep by the radiator. “What can you tell me about her?”
We spend the next hour like that, me deducing facts about the other incumbents of the room and their visitors to the obvious delight of the doctor. I even ask him to tell me what he observes about one of them. He doesn’t actually do too badly – although I do not tell him that.
After, when he leaves, I feel almost sad. I do hope he visits again – I think I very nearly made a new friend.
And I am sure John would like him.
Sherlock keeps the shoes under a loose floorboard in his bedroom.
There are several reasons why he has chosen this hiding place for his new acquisition. Firstly, the shoes are evidence in a murder investigation. Their status as such is somewhat meaningless because the murderer would never allow himself to do anything so banal as appearing in the dock at the Old Bailey. Nevertheless, Sherlock ought to have sent them to Scotland Yard. A certain level of secrecy is, therefore, desirable.
Secondly, it reduces the probability of them being caught up in the mayhem that occurs whenever Mrs Hudson chooses to forget that she is not their housekeeper and starts cleaning the flat. The clostridium botulinum bacteria that linger on the surfaces of the leather and the laces are probably too few to cause any real damage, but it’s better to be safe than sorry where Mrs Hudson is concerned. He takes a similar attitude regarding Lestrade’s sporadic, and in every way unwarranted, drugs busts.
Thirdly, John is unlikely to stumble across them. He is not worried that John might cause himself some mischief if he were to discover the trainers. John has lived with Sherlock long enough, and has enough good sense, to know not to touch anything that is sealed in an evidence bag - unlike Mrs Hudson or some of the cretins from the Met. Besides, John would know them instantly. The two of them had spent long enough examining them, and it was John who marvelled most at their deceptively pristine condition.
“The killer kept the shoes all these years...”
And although Sherlock had interrupted him, he knew how John’s statement should have finished: “What sort of a person would do that?” So he hides the shoes from John, not because John is stupid but because John is clever. Clever enough to make that connection between himself and Moriarty; you both kept the shoes.
Not only kept them, but preserved them. The shoes appeared in the basement flat in exactly the same state that they left Carl Powers’s locker over two decades before. The mud was still on the soles. Moriarty didn’t throw them carelessly into the back of a wardrobe, or leave them in a dusty attic for moths and mice to have their fill.
Sherlock thinks of the unhinged man from the swimming pool climbing a step ladder, cradling a cardboard box that has the toe of one white trainer peeking over the rim - and he smiles.
And you, Sherlock – you store those shoes in an airtight polythene bag. You’ve sealed Carl’s trainers up and tucked them out of sight. He is not usually so sentimental about objects. The violin and the skull might be exceptions - he rather likes both of those – but he habitually regards material items as disposable, exchangeable entities. The trainers, however, are truly irreplaceable. They symbolize the two first times that that Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty crossed paths.
He takes no pleasure in paradoxes, but this one is necessary.
The trainers are the first time at the swimming pool and then the second first time in the lab at St Barts. Twenty years ago they were notable for their absence and six months ago for their presence. They were sitting there on the bench as he – stupid, stupid – pored over the microscope and Jim-From-IT Moriarty placed his telephone number under a metal dish. They were sitting there, twenty years old but looking – as John said with such surprise – like new. An apt metaphor, then, for his relationship with Moriarty.
He can imagine the pleasure that Moriarty felt when he saw the shoes on the lab bench. As he watched Sherlock expound so much energy on figuring them out, it must have been exquisite to stand there and know how clever he’d been.
Ah. That’s it. That’s the difference between the two of you. He took the trainers because they were evidence, yes. But he kept them because they were proof that he’d won, that Jim had fixed it. For him, the unspoilt, poisoned trainers were a souvenir of something that was finished. You keep them, Sherlock, because you haven’t won yet. For you, they’re a reminder of a work in progress.
And until he’s won, the trainers will stay in their polythene cocoon, under the floorboard that screeches when someone treads on it. They’ll stay down there, looking just like new.
John Watson had never been one for new things. Oh, he appreciated them, often fancied them, but he had been raised to make do with what he had unless what he had was absolutely shot. He had internalized the mantra “Unless it’s broken beyond repair, it’s just fine!” early on in his teen years, taking an almost perverse pride in his cunningly patched jeans and mended shirts, the carefully tended electronics and well-preserved textbooks and comic books. Sure, he often wished that he had the latest gadget like his mates, or a new suit for the fancy dress ‘do rather than his father’s old one, but he knew how to make do, and that, he told himself, was important.
The mantra had served him well through years in university, then the army and now, living with Sherlock, it was practically tattooed on his tongue, so often did he repeat it under his breath and aloud. He said it in the shops, when Sherlock carelessly tossed a two hundred dollar pair of gloves onto the counter because his current pair had a tiny snag in the leather of the left one, near the thumb. “It’s marred,” the detective explained as if speaking with a particularly simply child. “I rely on my senses, John, to compliment my intellect and if my senses are distracted by uneven temperature because of a hole in my glove, then the value of my deductions is suspect!”
John gritted his teeth and ,ignoring Sherlock’s arched brow, he waited outside the shop while his friend pondered the wisdom of purchasing two pairs of gloves, just in case tragedy befell the new pair. John briefly considered, then dismissed, the notion of spending a bit extra on himself. It might only be pocket change to Sherlock (Mycroft, John’s brain corrected absently-he doubted Sherlock touched any of the money given to him for private cases), but a new mp3 player or laptop would cut deeply into John’s rainy day fund. Which, in and of itself, was more accurately a ‘slightly damp day with a bit of drizzle around tea time, but only if you really squint’ fund. He had just managed to push the tiny sense of desire out of his mind when Sherlock came sailing out of the shop, busily texting. “Done, then?”
“Message from Lestrade,” he remarked, not even slowing down. “Total waste of my time and brilliance--the wife is having an affair with the nanny and they absconded with the children and trust fund.”
“How the Hell could you figure that out from a text message?” John intercepted Sherlock’s look and rolled his eyes. “Right, you’re Sherlock Bloody Holmes.” Anything else John might have said was cut off by a body-blow; a lanky man with a stocking cap pulled low over his face plowed into John and sent him and Sherlock sprawling in separate directions. It took just a moment for the doctor to realize what had happened. “Oi! Stop! Thief!” He did not wait to see if Sherlock was following, and, a rugby tackle later, he was sitting on the thief’s chest, wallet safely returned, Sherlock standing beside him like some overgrown crow, clucking at the entire scene.
“You’re going to need a new phone,” Sherlock noted with some satisfaction as John pulled the remains of his trusty silver one out of his pocket, watching the police take away the thief.
“I can get this one fixed,” John muttered taking in the cracked screen and missing keys. He felt a pang of loss for the trusty little thing and had the fleeting idea to give it a proper burial, with full honors.
“Just get a new one,” Sherlock insisted. “You need it.”
“This one is--will be--fine!”
“Oh, gods and little fishes!” Sherlock dipped into one of his greatcoat pockets and produced a slim orange package. “Just take the new one!”
John stared. “How...what?”
“It was only a matter of time before that one died in the line of duty,” he smirked, reading John’s thoughts clearly. “I deduced it would be efficient to keep a new one on hand.” He paused. “Just take it, John.”
John hesitated, years of make-do, of putting future needs first, sent a pang of guilt through his chest but... “Will you answer when I text?”
“If you’ll take the damned thing!”
John smiled. “Thank you, Sherlock.”
As oblivious as Sherlock could be on occasion, he was always quick to notice when something seemed 'different'. It could be a book moved from one shelf to the other, an otherwise viable experiment tossed into the bin ("John I was using that!" "Why were you playing marbles with kidney stones?" "Because what else was I do do with them?").
Going into the kitchen and in search of the ever elusive flat-mate and magic tea when he all but tripped over some new additions to the kitchen. First were three colourful bins with bio-hazard sticker and labels marking them as clinical, cytotoxic, general and sharps all written in John's hand, with a smiley face drawn underneath. He opened the fridge to find all his experiments gone and replaced with proper edibles. He was about to shout John's name when the other mane came into the room.
"I see you found your present then?" He asked.
"What did you do with my..."
"Several pints of blood, the tongue, and something in a Tupperware container that I shall not mention?" John asked. "Any body parts that were viable are in the mini fridge right there." He said, pointing to the small, black, dorm-style model. "Anything that seemed off I chucked."
"John, those were important, vital..." He began.
"Waste materiel." John interrupted him. "Told you, didn't chuck everything and Mrs. Hudson and I thought it'd be better if you had your own fridge for anything that required storage. She and I went halves on the unit." He started making tea. "Molly stopped off with the disposal bins. She had some extras from Bart's supply. It'll make things easier when she comes over to collect things when you're done with them."
"And why is spectre of Molly Hooper darkening my door?" Sherlock asked, still put out by the change in the kitchen.
"Because ultimately it's her job on the line every time an organ or two leaves Bart's. It's easier to leave the disposal to her." John said, putting the mug of tea into Sherlock's hand. "Besides, it's my door too and if I want her to help me with any cleaning I will. Besides, I think right now she could use a friend or two. Jealous that she doesn't have her crush on you any more?" There may have been a wicked grin at the last bit.
Ignoring the last jibe Sherlock took a sip f his tea. It was over-seeped by three seconds, but the barest taste of honey made up for it. "Why go through all this bother. You know I probably won't adhere to these boring disposal procedures?" Sherlock questioned.
"Maybe it's for my own safety and piece of mind." He sipped his own tea. "Partly because I wanted to."
Sherlock didn't respond. He knew that somewhere in the back of his hard drive there must have been a time when someone had done something for him, expecting nothing in return. However that was long since deleted and forgotten.
"Thank you." he said, noting that the smile on John's face was worth the social nicety. It was a new feeling to have, and not wholly unpleasant either.
The Lonely Bow
By his empty chin, the bow looked meaningless, but Sherlock didn't seem willing to let go of it. He held it in his right hand, making it slide against his left, as if trying to play a song out of his fingers.
John informed him, "Lestrade said we can go now." Sherlock stopped his song of silence, but made no indication he was going to move from the plastic chair. He tapped the bow on the back of his hand, stroke it, ignored John's pleading look and didn't say anything.
John tried, "Sorry about the Strad, I know you really liked that thing." That only got a scoff as response. An 18th century Stradivarius is not just any "thing", maybe he should show a little more respect to the crushed violin - it had, after all, saved his life and gotten Moran behind bars.
"Right." John said, apologetically, sitting by his side. "I can't really offer to buy you a new one."
"That's fine." He mumbled.
"Sorry, either way. I know it must have been hard-"
"It wasn't a hard decision." He said, firmly.
John didn't know why, but he was surprised at how easy that answer came out. "Yes. Right. Sorry, I didn't mean-"
"I know what you meant." Sherlock deadpanned. He didn't seem offended at the implicit thought that he may like a piece of wood (granted, expensive and rare piece of wood) more than a human being and that choosing between watching John being strangled and smashing his precious Stradivarius on Moran's head to save his life would be Sophie's Choice. Yet, at that moment, Sherlock acted so quickly John could even dare to say he had given the issue no thought at all.
Sherlock sighed, "What is done, is done. I shouldn't get sentimental, I can always ask Mycroft a new one for Christmas."
His tone couldn't be more trivial if he had asked for socks, but John pushed that aside and asked, "He gave you the first one?"
"No. Mother did. I was seven."
"No reason not to get sentimental, then."
Sherlock rolled his eyes, "Don't be cheesy, John. It's not a childhood toy. I just stored too many things into that violin, that's all." He paused and John tried to make sense of that last sentence as his friend went back to wondering in silence.
John had heard Sherlock play many times during the past few months they had lived together. Always classical music, of course. The one time John tried requesting "Can you play 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'?" it only granted him a mean glare. It wasn't until John had retrieved safely behind his newspaper that Sherlock went on with his Moonlight Sonata, making every note sound slow and tortuous.
Beethoven was always like that, always that deep sorrow that came out almost as a musical sob. For thinking it was usually Mozart, and that was played with such dedication John couldn't help but think those quick and complex notes were what most resembled the process of thought going inside his head. Whenever Mycroft had made an apparition, Sherlock turned to Bach, and that was loud and aggressive. Vivaldi was cheerful and vigorous. Wagner was furious and untameable. The Opera was quiet and, despite its perfection, John was sure it was Sherlock's way of "going easy on himself" or "playing for fun".
Most times, it was beautiful. Moving. Brilliant. Other times, it was just plain inconvenient. Noisy. Annoying. However, it was never flat. Sherlock could channel so much heart into that violin - all his heart, all his feelings - that you couldn't be indifferent to it. Sherlock, however, would stand impassive for hours as he played, letting the Strad take everything into its strings, *storing* so much inside the song.
And John came to realize, sitting by his side at the Scotland Yard building, watching him ponder quietly to his bow, that maybe it wasn't just an expensive Stradivarius that had been crushed into pieces a few hours ago. Maybe he had crushed something much harder to put back together.
Finally, Sherlock spoke again, "I'm just wondering where it all went. And where will it go now."
"As you said, you can get a new one."
Sherlock gave another sigh, defeated. "I suppose."
"And, 'til then, you know, I'm still in one piece."
Sherlock couldn't bring himself to smile yet, but he still managed to say with some relief, "Glad to know."