Sherlock BBC (Sherlock/John, eventually)
In which there is evidence being evaluated.
Set after The Great Game. Has not been britpicked, but it has been spellchecked. If anyone would like and has time to volunteer for britpicking duties, I'd be extremely grateful.
part 1, part 2, part 3
It's only an hour later when he finds himself back downstairs, steps matched to the soft sound of Sherlock's violin; it stops as he emerges in view of the couch, where Sherlock looks at him and reaches for the remote control for the telly.
"Do you ever sleep?" John asks, rhetorical and too tired to remember how to sleep at all; head lolling on the back of the couch, John watches Sherlock put his violin away. "That was nice. What was it?" Sherlock can coax truly horrific sounds from those strings when he wants to, but that had been something new, though itchingly familiar, as if John had heard it before. Wistful like a lullaby, with an aching bridge that could have lulled him back to sleep any other night but this.
Sherlock shrugs as the telly comes on, blasting news programs in aggressively persuasive tones before he lowers the volume; if John can be proud of one thing, he's taught Sherlock the magic of background noise not based on chemical compound reactions or violin solos. Sherlock's almost fully dressed, shoes and socks discarded; for some reason, it feels more intimate than long days that Sherlock comports himself in nothing but pajamas and a dressing gown.
Sherlock makes soft, disparaging commentary on the program, almost another kind of lullaby, and John feels himself sinking down, slow, slow; he surfaces blearily what feels like seconds later, but it must have been hours. The telly is turned almost to mute, and John's slumped against Sherlock's shoulder and perhaps even drooling into his shirt (the coat, from the feel of the soft cotton against his cheek, has been discarded). Blinking, he can see Sherlock sleeping with a cushion tucked between his head and the armrest, legs coiled up impossibly beneath him, bare feet just visible, one slim hand resting on his thigh, pale fingers inches from John's knee.
This, John thinks distantly, will never do.
"Go back to sleep," Sherlock says, sounding annoyed. John wants to argue, because returning to his room is the sensible thing, but then Sherlock reaches back and tugs down the blanket from the couch over John as if to silence the unspoken protests. Ducking his head out, he finds the warmth is too much to give up, and he can barely keep his eyes open as it is; he has the presence of mind, however, to pull the blanket up enough to drape a corner over Sherlock's lap and almost smiles when it's tugged higher before the two bare feet tuck themselves under John's thigh as Sherlock says petulantly, "I'm comfortable."
It's all too surreal to be real; John expects he'll wake in his own bed wondering at his own strange subconscious, trotting out fantasies of Sherlock almost touchable, almost human, cold feet and entitlement to John's warmth, much like his entitlement to John's company. John offers both without reservation, as much as Sherlock cares to take. It's a truth too dangerously new to admit even in thoughts, much less in words; best he keep that from himself as much as possible. He's not sure where that might lead.
"Right," John murmurs, settling himself again, chest tight with something too warm and precious to be named, falling asleep and almost able to feel the touch of a hand against his knee, firm and comfortingly warm, familiar, and wonders at his own peculiar fancies.
Sherlock's boredom is a dangerous thing, John knows from experience; a man who would stand in the path of lightning if it proved interesting enough to warrant his attention doesn't do well when left at loose ends. John's grown to understand it, even appreciate what it means to Sherlock to be without work; Sherlock's mind at rest is running twice that of any normal person, and occupation cannot be easy for anyone who spent a single afternoon learning the entirety of grade school astronomy and an evening with university textbooks and physics journals scattered through the flat like breadcrumbs leading to a truly terrifying days of quoting energy-mass conversions over breakfast and dipping into the vastness of stellar phenomenon before tea. They had reached dark matter theory by the time John heartily regrets the birth of Gallileo and begins to empathize with papal wrath if this is the type of thing Christ's representative on earth thought passed for light chat during meals.
Sherlock needs work like others need food; for a man who as far as John can ascertain has never held a normal job like any other unfortunate sod, his work ethic is phenomenal.
The two days of quiet are expectant, however; John finds himself staring at the skies every time he leaves the flat, listening to the weather forecast with foreboding. If Sherlock is correct--and John can't imagine a world where he isn't--the next body will be found after the next strong shower, and that's quite enough to strip away the usual impatience with a kind of methodical brooding. Sherlock consults his notes as if they aren't engraved into his memory already between cups of tea and Ms Hudson's not-quite-random visits, still at the kitchen table measuring blood coagulation or planted on the couch with deceptive stillness, reading, always reading.
Or sometimes, like now, looking at John with the faintly dissatisfied expression of one whose experiment is performing to spec in all ways but one, that one being the part that makes it work. And John knows he's lived with Sherlock far too long, because the human instinct to flinch at such steady attention is so worn down that he's forgotten how to do it entirely. He's not even uncomfortable anymore, and that should be a warning sign of something, though John's vague on what by personal choice.
The third morning dawns far too early, with the sound of voices downstairs, neither Ms Hudson's, and the sound of things being moved about in a pattern that's suspiciously non-random. Grabbing a dressing robe from the foot of the bed, John stops at the loo to make himself somewhat presentable and then remembers it's half past six and he can't bother himself for anyone who invades his home before tea. Coming down the stairs, he hears Sherlock, speaking quickly and too-sharply, and John has a resigned moment to wonder if it's another drugs bust when Lestrade responds before he's in the kitchen and the object of two sets of eyes, both sets tired, but Lestrade's merely unhappy while Sherlock is frozen into the sort of expressionless cold that John has learned is a thin coat over utter rage.
There are two others wandering the flat, looking at their coats and their kitchen; neither look at him, though he knows both from various crime scenes and always exchanged a smile or a patient look when Sherlock is being particularly brilliant and unbearable.
"Dr. Watson," Lestrade begins, awkward and uncomfortably formal. "We have a few questions--"
"You have nothing of the sort," Sherlock says sharply. Coming another step in the kitchen, John watches one of the detectives looking over his coat, shining with moisture from last night, and oddly, the only thing he can think is that he doesn't remember that it rained last night. He'd left Sarah's to skies grey but certainly not on the verge of storm. "John, go back to bed--"
"What's going on?" John says slowly as his coat is bagged like a piece of evidence. "My coat--"
"The identity of the second victim was confirmed last night," Lestrade says, taking a step toward John. "It seems she was one of your patients, Dr. Watson." Lestrade hesitates, flushing the red of fresh cherries. "Further investigation confirmed so was the first. We are currently confirming the identity of the third--"
"There was a third murder." John grasps onto that fact when no other seems to make any kind of sense. "Where? Was it--"
"On our doorstep, yes, John, do keep up." The brisk irritation is oddly grounding; John looks around the kitchen a little helplessly. From the look of the man currently going through what passes for their pantry, he will not enjoy a cup of tea anytime soon. "Lestrade, whatever shockingly inaccurate conclusions your pitiful excuse for logical thought have led you to--"
"We can do this here, or not," Lestrade says, cheeks flushing darker but utterly firm. "Your choice, Sherlock."
John sees Sherlock's fingers close into tight fists and remembers, for no particular reason, that two nights ago Sherlock had admitted a youthful interest in boxing. "I was passable," Sherlock had said in mock humility, which had meant that he was quite good, and John doesn't think they need add assault to whatever the bloody hell is going on right now.
"At least," Sherlock says, each word clipped as sharp as a new razor, "let the man sit down. He's just awakened."
John has no clearer idea of what is going on when he's seated on the couch, Sherlock tossing himself into one corner with a swirl of his dressing gown that indicates his utter impatience with the series of events. John wishes he knew more about them; perhaps then he'd be able to follow along.
"Dr. Watson," Lestrade says, perching uncomfortably in an armchair and looking more unsettled by the second when Sherlock turns cold grey eyes on him with the same expression one looks at dissected animals, or gum found on the soles of one's shoes. "As I said, two of the three victims were shown to have been treated by you at St. Bart's within hours of their deaths."
John blinks, trying to remember; neither girl's face was at all familiar, though for the first, newspapers are terrible for accurate photographs. The sight of one of the detectives going up the stairs distracts him for a moment--what on earth could they be searching for in his room?--before the pieces come together abruptly. His coat. His room. The two victims.
"You think I--" he stops there, unable to say the words. That can't be right.
"Dr. Watson," Lestrade says, still in that terrible, awkward formality, "where were you last night?"
John licks his lips. "Sarah's. I came home at eleven. She can--can verify that." They will, he realizes in horror. They'll go to her home and ask her questions about whether John was there and for how long and what they did and how he acted; was it suspicious, strange, did he seem to be in a hurry to leave, perhaps to kill young women in horrific ways? "Lestrade--"
"Can anyone verify when you arrived back at the flat?"
"I can, of course," Sherlock says, sounding bored.
John watches as the detective emerges again from the stairs, holding his shoes and clothing from last night, discarded messily on the floor. "They're wet, sir," the man says, making no sense at all, or perhaps that's just John's mind that can no longer follow the plot of this ridiculous farce, because Lestrade is asking him--asking him--
"And the rest of the night?" Lestrade asks, looking hopeless.
"I can confirm that as well," Sherlock says, straightening, eyes fixed on Lestrade with a look that John recognizes and wonders if Lestrade does, too. "Unless you doubt my veracity?"
Lestrade hesitates. "You can confirm he was here all night, Sherlock?"
John doesn't quite understand what happens next; Sherlock shifts, and abruptly, long, cold fingers are resting just above his knee. Lestrade looks at them for a long minute, then back up at Sherlock, eyes wide.
"He was with me," Sherlock says, the way he tells Lestrade how a crime was committed and how to find the perpetrator; the lie is so perfect even John can't hear a flaw. The fingers on his leg tighten. "John's clothing is damp because we went for dim sum last night. When we returned, we went to bed. And I assure you, Inspector, I would have noticed if John had decided to quit our bed during the activities we engaged in afterward."
Lestrade looks--John has no idea what that look is, but he suspects that if he were not in shock, he might look that way himself.
"Do you require details?" Sherlock says, fingers tightening on John's knee again in warning. "I can elucidate both categorically and alphabetically--"
"No," Lestrade says in a burst of air horrified air. "I don't. Sherlock--"
"Finish your questions so we can return to bed," Sherlock says, sounding bored. "As you might imagine, we've had hardly any sleep at all."
John's still on the couch when their flat is their own again; strangely enough, the only thing he can think is to wonder what Sarah will say, that he left a date with her to engage in--activities--with his flatmate.
A cup of tea is shoved in his hand and Sherlock has John's phone out, texting--for a barrister, perhaps? Or sanity, if there's any left in the world, that is. "Sherlock--"
"I won't be allowed to examine the crime scenes any longer," Sherlock says, apropos of nothing. "Anderson could not find his own shoelaces; it will have to depend on Molly." Sherlock stops, looking pained at the very thought of depending on anyone else. "I suppose you will need to speak to Sarah, though I recommend--"
"--that you keep the details vague." Sherlock frowns. "Interpersonal relationships are so complicated; I assume she'll be unhappy--"
That he's apparently carrying on a sordid dim sum-fueled affair with his flatmate, yes, John rather thinks she might be.
"--but I assume you will find an explanation that will satisfy her. When this is over, of course, you can disclose the ruse we were required to enact." Looking satisfied, Sherlock puts the phone in his pocket and turns back to John. "IN the meantime, we had best concentrate on discovering who--"
"Sherlock," John says, raising his voice and wondering why a convenient psychotic break couldn’t' appear now, when he really does need it. A few days in the psyche ward doesn't seem like such a great price to pay for a little sanity by osmosis. "What--why did you--"
"You were not home at eleven; you haven't been on any night that there has been a murder." Sherlock's expression never changes. "You were not aware of this."
John starts to protest, then remembers his wet coat, his wet clothes; there has been no rain on his walk home. "I don’t understand--"
"There are cab receipts for all three nights," Sherlock says flatly. "I destroyed them, of course. No reason to leave false trails for Scotland Yard to become distracted by and ignoring more crucial evidence."
Cab receipts. That can't be right. "Last night--"
"You arrived home at four," Sherlock says flatly. "If I'd known Lestrade would be so uncharacteristically thorough, I would have seen to drying your clothing and cleaning your shoes properly; no help for it now."
John stares at him. Sherlock blithely destroying evidence of a crime is--heretical. Unthinkable.
"John, are you tracking?" Abruptly, Sherlock is crouching in front of him; John can't read anything but impatience. "This is a great deal to absorb for most people, I gather, but you always seemed above most of the lot in such things. You are being framed as a serial killer, and while I doubt that it could be proved, it would be inconvenient to have that following us about."
Inconvenient. "Right." Swallowing, John looks at his cup of tea, then at Sherlock, at a loss for words. "I don't remember rain."
"That," Sherlock says, sounding approving, "is the crux of the matter. Between the time you leave Sarah's flat and you arrive here, there is a six hour lag. I wasn't aware it was involuntary until two nights ago. Tonight, I misjudged the time you left Sarah's and so was not able to follow you; we will rectify that on the next night a storm is forecast."
John honestly wonders if Sherlock is listening to himself. If John is following--and sweet Christ does he hope he's wrong--he's leaving Sarah's and arriving here hours later by cab with no memory of what he did or any awareness of time passing. All on it's own, the friendly doctor's voice echoes in his head, psychotic break and the hazy memories of that first time--first time. Perhaps there have been more. Every night he goes to Sarah's. Perhaps.
"Oh, in case it needs saying," Sherlock says acidly, jerking John's attention back to him, "you aren't responsible for the murders."
Of course. "You--tested my coat. Or swabbed my hands? For blood?" For things other than blood. For-- "There was nothing, then."
Sherlock frowns slightly. "I verified this morning, in case we needed to dispose of your clothing, of course. I also took a blood sample, but the dose must have been lower than that used on the girl; I couldn't find any trace of flunitrazepam, but I am still testing for other drugs that would cause retrograde amnesia." John blinks, then pulls up the sleeve of his dressing gown to stare at his arm. Sherlock would be quite a competent phlebotomist, he thinks a little dimly.
"You don't know--" John starts automatically, then stops himself; he didn't kill those girls. He couldn't. He wouldn't, not that. Even in fugue from PTSD, he could never-- "You don't know, do you?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Sherlock answers, pushing himself up with a disappointed look. "Please refrain from belated panic that your sanity is in question. It is not; at least," he adds with a faint smile, "no more so than it ever has been. Come, we have an investigation to launch, and unencumbered by official assistance, such as it is." Sherlock looks happy. He always does when he's faced with a challenge. "Finish your tea. We have a great deal to do."
John drinks it, lacking anything else to do, setting it down, surprised all over again at the steady hands that don't shake the fragile cup to pieces. "You don’t know," he whispers, trying to find something that makes sense in this. "Sherlock, you found nothing, you have no idea where I went and no idea what I did."
Sherlock's footsteps pause, coming back; John stares at the cup.
"Do you believe that you did it, John?"
John swallows; he wonders when he became a person that could think such a thing of themselves. He wonders when he became a person that could be suspected of it at all. "I don't know."
"Do you trust me?"
John makes himself look up; Sherlock watches him, nothing but curiosity on his face. "With my life," he answers, knee-jerk and too-honest; he can't be anything else now, not when cab receipts have been destroyed and lies been told. It may be the only thing he truly believes now, when nothing else makes sense. Sherlock would lie for many reasons, but never to comfort him.
"I know," Sherlock says, like he explains a crime scene and identifies the murderer; it's not just confidence, which Sherlock's never lacked--it's certainty, like the existence of gravity, the rising of the sun, and the inevitability of John giving him his phone when wanted. There's no room for doubt when faced with that; faith seems a small word, imprecise, meaningless when meant to encompass it all. "You did not kill those women."
John lets out a breath; it sounds a bit like a sob.
Sherlock smiles, and God, who wouldn't love this, who wouldn't die for this, kill for this; it's not the first time John thought it, but it's the first time he understood it and what it meant. He can't tell Sarah the truth of what happened tonight, but perhaps it may be as much for the fact he wishes it were true than any other reason. "Just so."
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