Sherlock stood in the hall, taking in an impression which was quite different compared to his family home. There were, however, still no traces of recognition in the sleuth's facial expression. After a moment of hesitation, he climbed the stairs to their flat, counting each step and apparently confirming for himself that there were in fact seventeen of them. John rather found that seventeen were too much - definitely a challenging number to climb on crutches. He tried to find the best way to go up the steps and, as using both walking aids was a bit risky on the rather steep staircase, ended up clinging to the handrail with one hand, holding both crutches in the other hand while jumping upstairs step by step, cursing under his breath.
"Thanks,... mate,... your help... is always... appreciated."
Sherlock only threw a quick glance over his shoulder, his brow furrowed, before sinking back into concentration.
"Sarcasm," John grumbled, realizing that it wasn't Sherlock's intention to be so annoyingly inconsiderate. His lack of helpfulness was rather a matter of unawareness of other people's needs – something that obviously hadn't changed with the loss of his memories.
Mycroft had wanted to join them on their return home, but Sherlock had insisted on taking this step alone, or rather in the private company of the only other individual who belonged there. He hesitated slightly at the door to their flat, finally pushing it open cautiously with his flat hand, as if he was expecting danger lurking behind it. Standing in the doorway, he inspected the main room of 221B.
When John had eventually managed to ascend the first floor, he was leaning heavily on his walking aids, his breath coming fast from the exhaustion, waiting patiently behind his friend.
"It's quite... messy," Sherlock stated matter-of-factly, taking a few steps further into the room.
"Ironic that you should say it. – Although... it's quite tidy at present. You normally tend to spread your experiments, or parts of them, over each spare spot of all rooms apart from yours."
The Consulting Detective threw a quick, inscrutable glance at John. He shrugged off his coat, searching the room with his eyes, apparently looking for the hook to hang it on.
"There." John pointed with one of his crutches to the coat hooks at the wall. However, instead of hanging the woollen garment there, Sherlock threw it unceremoniously onto John's favourite armchair. After another while of simply standing at one spot, his eyes wandering through the room, Sherlock went through the flat, taking in every detail of it and examining one or another item more closely. John allowed him to take a look at his own room and Sherlock spent a couple of minutes upstairs. John didn't join him as the prospect of climbing yet some more stairs wasn't really appealing. After returning from his flatmate's bedroom, Sherlock went straight to his own room, shutting the door behind him.
John dropped into his armchair by the fireplace, sighing heavily and ignoring the fact that the detective's coat would become all creased. It was a bit chilly in the flat, but there was no blanket whatsoever within the handicapped man's reach. Mrs Hudson had apparently turned the heating down during their absence, but hadn't been there to prepare their flat for their return. The exhausted man didn't feel like getting up from his seat despite the uncomfortable chill. He pulled the Union Jack cushion out from behind his back, which wouldn't really warm him, but offered at least a little cosiness. John cuddled the soft piece, but felt that he was starting to shiver from the cold, so he reached behind him and spread the coat over himself, letting his thoughts wander. He was reminded of his first evening at 221B when he had taken a seat in exactly the same armchair, cursing his leg in the same way as now. Back then, however, his limp had merely been psychosomatic as opposed to now, where the reason for it was clearly visible, reflecting the light in its metal parts that weren't covered by the woollen cloth. He hoped that he would soon get rid of the fixating apparatus and would be able to take up intensive training to overcome the aftereffects of the fracture.
John wondered what Sherlock was doing in his room, but he didn't want to disturb him. The ex-soldier could very well imagine that it needed time for his friend to adjust to the new home, although it wasn't new at all, but merely entirely unfamiliar to Sherlock.
After some time Sherlock emerged from his room, standing in the living-room, contemplating.
"What's on your mind?" John asked, still clutching to the cushion on top of his makeshift blanket.
"I'm deducing myself. You said I was quite good at it, so I should be able to find something out about myself, shouldn't I?"
"I guess so," John mused, briefly pulling down the corners of his mouth at a loss.
"What's that?" Sherlock asked, frowning and pointing to the black cloth on John's legs.
"Your coat. I was cold."
The Consulting Detective's frown deepened and he slightly tilted his head, but he was apparently unable or unwilling to put into words what was on his mind, as he remained quiet. After a brief moment the lines on his forehead smoothed out and Sherlock seemed to have retreated again into deep concentration, standing completely still. John knew that if Sherlock had remembered, he wouldn't have left the coat for John's comfort. If anything was sacred to this rational human being, it was his Belstaff coat.
After a while the doctor wondered whether the tall man was still breathing and he watched his friend with growing curiosity. Sherlock had apparently lost none of his ability to shut himself off from the rest of his surroundings. All of a sudden, the Consulting Detective took a deep breath and flopped down onto the sofa.
"And?" John probed, desiring to know what his flatmate had concluded about himself.
"It's... difficult," Sherlock said cautiously, steepling his hands under his chin. The gesture was so familiar to John that it rather appeared to him as if they were playing a strange game. He was convinced that Sherlock would be able to lead everyone up the garden path about the true state of his mind if necessary, as he was displaying his usual habits, giving proof of his general knowledge – only Sherlock Holmes' personal history was still buried somewhere in a mind that was playing tricks on its owner.
"Care to share?" John encouraged Sherlock, who screwed up his face, throwing an irritated glance at his flatmate.
"What for, John? To make a fool of myself and to entertain you?"
The man in the armchair shifted a bit, straightening his back.
"I'm sorry, Sherlock, if there have been moments when I couldn't suppress a giggle – but you're not making a fool of yourself! I know you – at least I think so – and I can probably adjust your own image of yourself a bit, if necessary. I just want to help you. Although..., if you're still as good as you were, you won't be wrong anyway. "
John didn't know if Sherlock was really willing to tell him his deductions or if he had merely goaded him to do so by giving him an incentive to proof his cleverness, but the younger man let his hands drop in his lap, taking a deep breath, and started talking.
"All rooms seem to be messy at first sight, but on closer examination the mess isn't coincidence, all books and papers are systematically ordered, as far as I can see. There is a lot of scientific equipment in the kitchen and some in my room, so I assume that's what you and Molly Hooper were talking about – my experiments. Your room is neat and clean, your clothes are meticulously folded - clearly a remainder of your military history - but stored away without any attention to shades of colour or type of fabric, whereas my room is of a different tidiness. Systematic tidiness down to the order of the socks and underwear. The periodic table and the picture of its inventor, the judo certificate and the picture of Edgar Allen Poe tell me a lot about myself, some things of which you have told me already. I have a knack for Chemistry – I can tell you the full story and all data about each and every element. It's just in my head. But there is no certificate, which I would have put on the wall as a display of my abilities like the other items, so I didn't finish my university studies – at least I didn't take the exams, most likely I didn't consider them important. My current self totally agrees with my former self in this point, by the way..." He grimaced at John, imitating a brief smile, and leaned forward on the sofa, resting his elbows on his thighs before continuing.
"The writer, Poe, must be the origin for my liking for detective work. I must have read his stories at some point in my life – most probably the only pieces of fictional writing that have ever impressed me. There are no pieces of fiction in my room, only few in the living-room, but quite a number in your room. Thus, I don't read fiction. I'm a man of reason...
"Oh, yes," John mumbled to himself, earning himself a piercing look of Sherlock's, who curtly shook his head and went on.
"There is a bust of Goethe in my room. Since I don't read fiction, I must appreciate his scientific work. Goethe was a genius of his time, so either I consider him thus, or I consider myself equal to the genius, which, at this point of insight into myself, seems to be quite likely." He frowned and the speed with which he had delivered his deductions decreased slightly with the last bit as if he didn't believe or want to believe in what he had said.
John had listened to his flatmate, utterly dumbfounded by the precision with which Sherlock was deducing himself and putting the pieces of his character together. When he drew the parallel between him and Goethe, however, John chuckled. Even without his memories, Sherlock proved his megalomaniac tendencies.
"Quite right so far. Excellent!" John exclaimed. "Go on."
Sherlock looked at him with a small frown, but it seemed as if he was actually enjoying this brainwork and the exploration of who he was.
"There are some pieces that don't fit into the puzzle, though: we share a flat. Taking the quality of my clothes and the family mansion into account, it's not because of the lack of money. Not from my side, at least..."
"Thanks, idiot!" John sulked, "I'm aware of it."
"No need to be offended, John. It's just the plain facts. – But why then do I share my flat with you?"
John grinned. "What do you think?" he asked with a low voice, sounding almost seductively.
Sherlock suddenly straightened his back, scrutinising his opposite with his brow furrowed.
"We're not... I'm not... Am I? - Really?"
John's grin widened. He was aware of the fact that it was slightly mean to tease Sherlock in such a way, but he simply couldn't resist and so far his bad conscience wasn't too pungent as well.
"Are you...what?" he probed.
"Are we... sharing this flat because we're romantically attached?" the Consulting Detective burst out, his shoulders slumping with apparent relief that the question was out. There was, however, a hint of disappointment or embarrassment in his facial expression when he lowered his eyes.
"People gossip about us occasionally and some even insist on the idea of the two of us being a couple, but I didn't lie to you when I said we were friends. We don't share the bed, Sherlock. We're both dead straight as far as I can tell."
John sensed that he had entered slippery terrain as, in fact, he didn't really know for sure about his flatmate's orientation. His assumptions were merely based on the fact that Sherlock had told him the very first evening that any romantic attachment wasn't "really his area" and that he had witnessed the Consulting Detective falling for Irene Adler.
"So, why do you think do we share a flat if not for any romantic or financial reasons?" he asked Sherlock out of curiosity.
"My brother has his hand in it, I guess. He is quite patronising and there was something he desperately wanted to hide from me. He's keeping a careful eye on me and you are his spy."
"Look at you, Sherlock Holmes!" John said quite admiringly after a little pause, "You don't need your memories. Everything and everyone is like an open book to you. You're quite right, apart from the fact that Mycroft had offered me money to spy on you but I didn't take it."
"Should have known, though. Your military attitude forbids you to accept bribery. You're utterly loyal."
"Maybe I am, but that's quite a long story, Sherlock."
"John..., why do I know all the general facts, all the details about certain things, but don't know anything about me?"
The ex-army doctor inhaled deeply, pondering for a couple of seconds before speaking.
"Your psyche seems to be overburdened, thus shuts down those parts of the information flow in your brain that harm you - global retrograde amnesia. Normally, it's not the general knowledge that threatens your psyche but personal experience. That's why you know everything but the facts about yourself. – I'm neither a neurologist nor a psychiatrist, so this is just my general understanding of your problem."
"Has anybody already told my psyche to piss off?!" Sherlock growled, pushing himself up from the sofa and crossing the living-room with long strides into the direction of the windows.
John's eyes followed his friend. Sherlock was obviously more distressed by his amnesia than he would ever put into words.
The sleuth was standing by the window, his gaze set on the violin and the bow, which were leaning at the wall. He carefully took the items in his hands, following each of the strings with his index finger before plucking it once, producing a short "pling" in different pitches.
He stretched his neck before resting his chin on the chin rest, and placing the bow on the strings in a tender movement. His left hand embraced the violin's fingerboard, his fingers spread, tips lying on the strings.
John was fascinated by the ceremony with which Sherlock was re-familiarizing himself with his instrument. The suspense of the anticipation of the first tones played was almost unbearable. Finally, the bow hit the strings and was pushed over them, producing a delicate sound. John chuckled when he instantly recognised the piece. It was "God Save the Queen".
Sherlock went on playing some other short pieces of music. The melodies almost lulled John into sleep, when all of a sudden Sherlock cursed. "I can't remember the scores!" he exclaimed, frustrated.
The tired man started, sitting up in his armchair. "You don't remember the scores? Isn't it enough to remember the notes for the violin part? If you were the conductor, it would be quite useful to remember it, but otherwise...?"
"But I don't! I need the notes!"
"There's nothing wrong with that, Sherlock. Just give it a try."
The disappointed man opened the book that was sitting on his music stand – Bach – and prepared himself to start playing once more. John could see the concentration on Sherlock's face, but the music didn't reflect it. The tune was filling the room harmoniously and soon the violinist relaxed a bit and went on playing at sight.
John enjoyed the music for a while and Sherlock seemed to be calmer than most of the days before, but both men were exhausted at the end of the day, and after an Italian take-away dinner, they retreated to their rooms, wishing each other a good night.
In the middle of the night John woke with a start, hearing the melody of some sad violin tune, which sounded strangely familiar to him. Sherlock was playing his precious instrument again.
Sleepily, the handicapped man gathered his crutches and limped out of the room and down the stairs as quietly as his leg and crutches allowed.
Sherlock was standing by the window in front of his music stand with some handwritten notes on it. However, the younger man wasn't looking at them as far as John could see. The living-room was dark apart from the lamp by the window, the furniture casting long, eerie shadows in John's direction. The doctor watched his friend attentively. He seemed to be transported into a parallel world, the bow finding its way over the strings by magic command, producing a melancholy melody that touched John's heart.
Without a warning, Sherlock stopped short, the bow still on the strings, his eyes becoming wide. He turned around so that he fully faced John, a wild and haunted look in his eyes, all colour having vanished from his face, his mouth open in a silent cry of terror. The doctor's blood froze. The expensive instrument dropped on the floor, producing an inharmonious tone, followed by its owner, whose knees had given in under him. Sherlock slumped on the floor, unconscious.
John suddenly remembered the
tune Sherlock had played. It had been the melody he had composed after the
supposed death of Irene Adler. He had played it without looking at his notes...