A Rose By Any Other Name

Chapter 4

She had gone nearly all day without any food aside from the small amount of oatmeal she could stomach after her discovery that morning. Sitting in the meeting room with all of the evidence, Aryn was combing through every small detail that she could find about the victims.

They had all led relatively normal lives. Nothing screamed out to her as being out of the ordinary. She was waiting for Donovan to bring her a list of recent purchases each of the victims had to see if there was anywhere they had visited that they had in common. They were pretty much splicing hairs at that point, but it was the best trail they had to go on.

The papers she had brought with her for notes were empty, to her dismay. Seeing all of the blank papers in front of her, Aryn decided to start writing out formulas and symbolic logic sentences like she used to do when she was stuck on a problem in college. Truth tables started to come out of the end of her pencil as she leaned her face on her non-writing hand, her elbow being the support she had against the table. She looked as if she was a bored school girl doodling in class.

Sherlock walked in, looking over some papers, and didn’t expect anyone to have been in the room. He stopped for a brief moment, Aryn not even looking up from her notes, then continued to walk towards the boards to look over each of the victims’ profiles. He tacked up the morgue results from the last victim, leaned back on the table, and sighed.

He was worried that if they waited too long, there would be another death. The press had started to get antsy and were bugging him about the case every time he left 221B Baker Street. They were going on about the serial killer that was on the loose, asking him if the people of London were safe on the streets. They had even gotten around to harassing Mrs. Hudson about it, and he definitely wasn’t a fan of that. The pressure of this unsolved puzzle was starting to build.

He turned to look over his shoulder to see what Aryn was doing. Furrowing his brow, he walked around and placed one hand next to where she was leaning her head, hovering over her shoulders to watch her write down what she could remember. “You still do this?”

She jumped slightly, not realizing where he had gone and how close to her he was. Regaining her composure, she said, “To pass the time. If I don’t practice, I’ll forget it all and then what good would it have done me to study all those hours in school?”

Shrugging, he pulled the paper away from her to look at what she had written so far.

“Hey!” she exclaimed standing up and meeting him toe-to-toe.

He held the paper above her head so that he wouldn’t be disturbed by her grabbing for it. It reminded him of when he’d harass her in college about her work. He’d do this when he wanted a break from his cases. Causing trouble to Aryn had been his main source of entertainment prior to being able to bother John about his life.

“I’m surprised you remember all of this,” turning his back to her and leaning his hip against the table. “I can’t think of a time that you ever used these while we solved crimes together.”

“Give it back,” she argued, attempting to swipe the paper away from his hands.

“And someone’s gotten a bit feisty while becoming a DI. Is that something they teach you while you’re learning the job? I’ve noticed Lestrade has some sass every now and again that could rival even Donovan.”

“And someone’s become an even bigger git since I last saw him. Give it here,” she argued, trying to grab the paper again. She eventually got it back after Sherlock brought it within her reach. She crumpled it up and tossed it into the bin that sat in the corner next to the door. “Do you have any new leads?”

He shook his head as he shifted his weight to sit on the table. “I have some people looking into some information for me but until it comes back, I suppose we’ll just have to go with your idea of their financial records.”

“Glad to see that an idea of mine appeals to you,” Aryn noted, starting to walk around Sherlock. When she would work on cases with Sherlock, her ideas were usually shot down because they were too obvious. Either that or Sherlock had already acted on her suggestion and he was disappointed that she didn’t have a new option to look into.

While she had been going about her day, she hadn’t noticed that one of the laces of her shoes had come undone and was dragging on the floor. As she stepped forward, her foot caught one of the laces and she felt as if she had started to fall in slow motion.

Aryn put out her hands in front of her to brace for the fall, but instead of making contact with the floor, she felt an arm reach around her waist and pull her up to safety. After realizing that she wasn’t feeling the sting of pain or embarrassment, she registered the feeling of Sherlock’s chest making contact with her back. His breaths were as deep as hers, telling her that he hadn’t anticipated her fall nor did he guess that his reaction would be so quick. His arm sat securely around her waist, and she felt her heart beating at a million beats a minute.

“Is it really necessary for us to be all the way up here?” Aryn had asked. She and Sherlock were trying to get into a facility through the roof. Sherlock was looking for the hatch that would bring them down into the office they needed, the light of his flashlight being his only aide. “Why couldn’t we go through a window or something?”

He ignored her complaints, looking around each chimney and vent. They had either scaled the wrong building or the hatch had magically disappeared. He figured they had to go to the next building over.

By this time, they had been out several times together to gather information. Aryn had proven herself worthy on five cases now, Sherlock getting more comfortable with having an assistant. It was an interesting feeling having to walk someone through his thought processes. Somewhat of a bother for him at times, but Aryn caught on faster and faster with each case.

“We’re going to have to jump,” he figured, walking over to the edge of the building they were on. The jump to the next ledge was maybe six feet away. With a running start, he’d make it. He turned back to look at Aryn whose face had got a pale white.

“Jump?” she asked, also having noted the distance. After looking from Sherlock to the next building several times, she timidly admitted, “I-I-I can’t make it.”

“You can trust me,” he reassured, just as he had on their first case. He started to walk back towards her and gave her a look of confidence and expectancy.

She had never known what to make of that look. After going on these cases with Sherlock, she detected that it was very possible that to him, she was expendable. She was just another mind to use to banter around ideas. If he lost her, it wasn’t a major setback for him. That’s what made her even more nervous about the jump.

While she had been lost in her thoughts and worries, Sherlock had already made the jump to the next building and was waiting impatiently for Aryn. “Soon please, if you will. We don’t have much time.”

She swallowed hard. “Maybe you should go alone. I can wait here.”

“Just hurry up!” he called out, his patience wearing thin.

Her heart was pounding. Her breaths were quick. All she could hear was her pulse hammering in her ears. Walking a few steps to the right, she lined herself up with Sherlock on the other building. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she tried to envision herself making it across. She had read somewhere that if you could see yourself completing an impossible task, it made it easier to attack it. She felt no more confident when she opened her eyes.

She didn’t bother thinking any more on the matter. Focusing on Sherlock, she sprinted with every bit of energy her muscles could muster. Soon, she felt her feet leave the safety of the rooftop behind her, instantly regretting her decision to jump. Aryn watched as her legs reached out desperately for the opposing ledge and for a moment, she thought she could make it. Her toes made contact and she felt relieved.

The relief was short lived. One foot slipped off and her heart dropped. She looked at Sherlock with wide eyes as her arms reached out frantically. Her mouth opened to scream but no noise left it. Many things raced through her mind as she felt gravity pulling her away from her destination. How could she have been so foolish as to think she was going to make it? The bottom of this building would be her maker. Tears began to fall freely from the corners of her eyes.

Without warning, she felt a strong hand reach for one of her arms and pull hard towards the building she had jumped for. An arm wrapped around her waist and another clamped itself around her shoulders, pulling her into Sherlock’s body. His warmth enveloped her.

He could feel her heavy breaths and her raging pulse. Her arms wrapped around his waist quickly as he heard her soft whimpers muffled into his body. The noise caused his chest to tighten; a strange feeling for the man who wasn’t concerned with any other humans other than himself and his family (and even that was a reach at times). The adrenaline rush between the two of them was astounding.

He learned one thing that night: he never intended to put her in that kind of danger again.

As his mind faded back into the current situation, Sherlock realized his arm was still wrapped tightly around Aryn’s waist, just as it was that night that he saved her. He noticed she wasn’t making an effort to remove it. Her pulse was still elevated but her breaths were becoming steadier now.

She looked over her shoulder at him, her eyes more vibrant now than when he had walked in the room. “I don’t think tripping over a shoelace compares to jumping roof tops, does it?”

For the first time since she had arrived, Sherlock laughed. The tension in his eyes melted away and for a moment, she could see the young college boy that had started her crazy thirst for adventure. A smile spread across Aryn’s face as she shared in the laughter. The ice had finally been broken.

“Hey did you two want to go and grab—” John stopped midsentence as he looked at the situation before him. He instantly regretted walking in while multitasking on his phone. The sight of Sherlock’s arm wrapped around Aryn and the two laughing about something was the last thing he expected to see that day (or ever).

Aryn’s laugh faded as she casually walked away from Sherlock, leaving him with a small trace of a smile as he gazed upon the pictures hanging before him once more.

“Um…sorry did I interrupt something?” John asked, eyeing Aryn suspiciously.

She cleared her throat as she straightened her shirt. “No, no. Sherlock just saved me from a nasty fall is all. What were you going to ask us?”

In disbelief, John looked from Aryn to Sherlock, then back to Aryn. “I was just going to ask if you two wanted to grab some lunch.”

A beep came from Sherlock’s pocket. “No thanks,” Sherlock quickly answered. He hopped off of the table and walked quickly past the two who were standing near the door as he pulled out his cell phone. A text had reached him and he needed to meet someone in his homeless network for information.

After he left, John gave Aryn and expectant look.

“Shut up,” she said, pushing past John playfully. “I’ll join you for a sandwich down the street if you like,” she called back to him.

Later that night, Aryn found herself back in the same pub that she had been in the night before. This time she was alone, aside from the financial records that Donovan had given her on her way out of the building that afternoon. She had only brought a small amount with her that night since there were literally four or five boxes filled with transactions that she would have the pleasure of getting to know over the next few days.

Enjoying some of the pub food and the fun atmosphere, Aryn set the papers down for a moment and scanned the bar. People were there either with their significant others or with their friends enjoying their relief from reality. She felt it was funny that this would be a place of escape for both good and bad reasons. She noted the other patrons who were sitting at the bar who were alone, either watching the telly or staring into their brew as if it were a crystal ball with the answers to all of their problems.

Taking a deep breath, she looked at her own half-finished glass and thought back on the day. Her exchange with Sherlock had been bugging her since she and John had gone out to lunch. She noticed that John was trying very hard to not push the matter anymore than what he already had. He probably felt awkward about walking in on them in such a position.

If she had to be honest with herself, although the initial exchange was a happy one, she felt scared. Trusting Sherlock again was going to be a difficult task all in itself, especially after what had happened in their past. She feared being alone. She didn’t want to suffer through that again.

Before she knew it, midnight had struck and she was still on the same page that she had been on when she started her second beer. Rubbing her eyes, she figured it would be a good idea to head back to her flat and get some shut eye. She gathered her things, left tip for the bar on the table, then proceeded to catch a cab home.

“You know what people say about him, right?” her roommate, Thalia, asked. The two girls were sitting in their dorm room enjoying a long awaited girls’ night. Since Aryn didn’t enjoy going to parties or hanging out with Thalia’s other group of friends, Thalia set aside days for both of them to enjoy one another’s company. She enjoyed Aryn’s sense of humor and sharp wit, which was a breath of fresh air compared to her the other group she tended to frequent. Tonight, she thought their hangout was much needed because of the rumors she had heard regarding her roommate and a certain Sherlock Holmes.

“Has it occurred to you that I don’t really care about what other people think?” Aryn said with a laugh, popping a few more pieces of popcorn into her mouth. “What do you want to watch tonight? Mystery or horror movie?”

Thalia sighed as she grabbed her friend’s wrist to shift Aryn’s focus. “I’m serious Ryn. People don’t have very nice things to say about this guy and the fact that you’re hanging out with him—“

“What? Tarnishes my reputation of being that weird girl that studies in the library too much?” Aryn rolled her eyes as she continued to look through the movie collection the two shared. “I don’t have much a reputation to ruin, Lia.”

“But that’s not the point!” Thalia groaned with frustration, falling backwards on the floor with a pillow pressed to her face. Her muffled voice continued, “You’re going to get hurt if you hang out any more with this bloke. I’m almost certain of it.”

Sighing deeply, Aryn turned to Thalia and began, “I know what I’m doing, Lia, okay? Sherlock has been nothing but nice to me.” She had wanted to say more about him saving her the other night, but mention of nearly losing her life because Sherlock put her in that situation in the first place may have set her friend off the edge.

Thalia sat up and looked at Aryn with the most serious face Aryn had ever seen her use in the last two years she had known her. “Ryn…I don’t want to see you get hurt, whether it be physically or emotionally. This guy has trouble written all over him.”

Aryn gave her a pleading look. It was one meant to make Thalia feel guilty, and she felt it 100%.

“Fine,” Thalia surrendered, putting up her hands in defeat. “Just…” she took Aryn’s hands in hers, causing Aryn to keep steady eye contact. “…make sure that if anything goes amiss, you come and tell me. Even if it means that you even start to like the guy. I want to know everything. Alright?”

The photo of her and Thalia she kept near the entranceway was a reminder of why Aryn had become a detective inspector in the first place. Her best friend had always been there for her, whether it was protecting her from people that saw Aryn’s “differences” as a method of harassing her or supporting her through every decision Aryn made, good or bad.

She kicked off her shoes and dropped her bag on the couch, walking into her bedroom with sleep pulling at her eyes.

As she grabbed clothes out of her dresser so she could shower, she finally noticed that her kitchen light had been on when she entered. She had left it off when she left her flat that morning. She saw shoes connected to legs that stretched from the side of the kitchen table that she couldn’t see from her room.

It was as if her heart stopped beating. Someone was in her flat and she had literally walked right past them. How long had they been there? What if it was the killer?

She set her clothes down in a rush and removed her gun from its holster. Her grip was slightly unsteady as she tiptoed towards her bedroom door.

Aryn turned the corner as fast as she could, her mind uncertain of who, or what, she would find.
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