A Rose By Any Other Name

Chapter 7

Aryn, John, and Sherlock took a cab together to the next crime scene. It had been almost a month with no new leads. On top of that, things hadn’t been going any better between Sherlock and Aryn. He made it a point to either shoot down any suggestions she had or just ignored her completely. After a while, she became numb to the treatment. It was like they were back in college once more. It was as if they had just started over.

John felt very uneasy about the situation. He felt torn between having to help Sherlock with the case and also helping Aryn with the case. They were going about it from two very different directions, but they were both arriving at the same conclusions. He didn’t want it to appear as if he was taking sides with anyone.

Lestrade had already left, leaving the three of them time to gather whatever information they needed prior to heading out.

The cab ride was long and quiet. John and Sherlock sat on one seat and Aryn sat on the other. She stared out the window the entire time while Sherlock stared at Aryn. It was peculiar behavior for John to witness. When he had gone in to Lestrade’s office to tell them both that there had been another body, there was something uncomfortable about the mood in the room. It was a heavy feeling that he walked in on. He meant to talk about it with Sherlock later.

Pulling up to the building in question, the three of them climbed out of the cab and walked around the back where Lestrade was waiting for them. His face was grave, as if had just seen a ghost.

“How old?” Sherlock asked, pushing past the DI.

Lestrade didn’t answer him, causing Sherlock to turn around to face him. “How old?” he repeated.

Aryn looked at Lestrade with a worried expression. He looked up at her with sorrow in his eyes.

Rushing past him, she saw the sheet that covered the body. It was very small, no more than three feet long. Her heart sank.

Turning to John, she said, “Maybe it’s best that you don’t go back there.”

John looked at her with a puzzled look. “Why not?”

Aryn’s gaze pleaded with John, but he wasn’t having any of it. He walked around her and followed Sherlock to the scene.

The baby couldn’t have been more than two months old. After pulling the sheet off of it, he immediately began to get choked up. When he looked down at that infant, he imagined his own unborn child. The dangers of the job he was doing immediately haunted him once more, his mind traveling back to Mary. He stood up and walked away from the scene, trying to collect his thoughts.

Sherlock walked over to the child and replaced John, looking over the wound as well as noting the placement. This one was carefully done once more, the baby holding the rose between its small hands. The wound was just as precise and the rose was fully bloomed, its fragrance wafting up to tickle Sherlock’s nose. Looking over at Aryn and John, he noted their reactions.

He walked back over to Lestrade and asked, “How long before we can get an autopsy report?”

“For Christ’s sake, Sherlock,” Lestrade groaned, “have some decency. We don’t even know who the parents are let alone why this kid is even here.”

“I’ll have some decency when this killer is caught. I want an autopsy done as soon as possible before we lose any more time.”

Sherlock didn’t wait for a response from Lestrade. He walked towards John, his sensitivity towards the situation at an all-time low. “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s just another body.”

John turned to face Sherlock and gave him a deadly glare.

Sherlock, confused, flicked his eyes from John to Aryn. “Not good?” he mouthed to her.

She rolled her eyes in disgust, as she announced, “I’m going back to Scotland Yard.” She knew that he knew better than to make a comment like that.

Sherlock noted the glazed look she had her in eyes before she left. They were haunted by what she had just seen. Being a DI, he figured that there would be times that she would be able to cast aside any and all biases in order to handle a case.

Walking away from the duo, she could hear John lecturing Sherlock about his comments and how he needed to be more careful about what he said in certain situations. She knew that Sherlock’s priorities had his mind roaming elsewhere, John’s speech somewhat going to waste.

He sat alone in Lestrade’s office, waiting for some scrap of news. Lestrade was out trying to find the baby’s parents, John was home with Mary, and Aryn was with Donovan also trying to look for information about the victim’s parents. He was in his usual position, hands formed into a steeple as they rested on his lips.

Aryn’s reaction today was one he had seen only one time before. It was a dark time during Aryn’s college career and one that, even Sherlock would admit, was scarring.

Thalia had been gone for a few days which had bothered Aryn. She was so distracted with the notion that it was leaking into her case work.

“Ryn?” he called out to her, Aryn daydreaming into the file she was supposed to be analyzing.

“Huh?” she replied. Sherlock’s expectant expression was glaring at her. Shaking her head, she said, “Sorry…”

He leaned back, looking over her tired features and her shaking hand. “She still hasn’t come back.”

She shook her head once more. “It’s been five days and no phone call.”

It was unusual. Whenever Thalia would stay the night at someone else’s place, she’d always tell Aryn, just to be on the safe side. Thalia had always said that if anything were to happen to her, she could count on Aryn to save her. This confidence made Aryn uneasy as each day passed. Should she be looking for her? Where would she even begin?

Sherlock leaned back on Aryn’s bed frame as he set the photos he was looking at to the side. Now that they were closer, he had started to pop in to her dorm to look over information. Aryn was completely fine with the arrangement, happy to not have to keep going into the boys’ dormitories to see what she and Sherlock needed to do. It was awkward having to walk past all of those males in their natural habitat: some shirtless, some fresh from athletic practices, and some on the prowl for that evening’s date. Sherlock had had to save her on more than one occasion by weaving a tale that Aryn was his girlfriend.

The first time he had done that, the story was awkward – only a fool would have believed their lie and luckily, it was a fool that was listening. After that, the story came out a lot smoother and much more believable, especially with Sherlock learning more and more about Aryn as time went on.

He stood up and walked over to her phone and dialed out to an important contact.

Aryn watched as his face went from normal to concerned to surprised within seconds.

He set down the receiver and walked slowly back to where he had been sitting.

She had been lying on the bed, stretched out and awaiting his return. “Is everything okay?”

“Grab your coat,” he replied. “We have a scene to look at.”

He regretted taking her as soon as he saw her reaction.

Thalia’s body had to have been there for at least three days. For the first time, he saw Aryn become truly speechless. Her eyes glossed over with a mixture of fear and sadness. Her breaths had become unsteady as she dropped to her knees. Her heart felt like it had stopped beating.

Her best friend was dead.

She should have went to look for her sooner. The first night that Thalia didn’t come back, Aryn should have done something. She should have called around to find out if anyone knew where she and her boyfriend had gone. It was her fault.

“Don’t think like that. You couldn’t have done anything even if you knew where she was,” Sherlock had said to her. He felt as if he could read her thoughts. They were written all over her face as she processed what was presented in front of her.

Immediately she was on her feet, walking up to Sherlock. “One of my best friends is dead and that’s how you choose to comfort me?” Tears pushed against her eyes like water against a dam. Her sadness mixed with frustration as her steps grew quicker. Without warning, she slapped him clear across the face.

She didn’t know why she did it. Maybe it was Sherlock’s lack of empathy that sent her over the edge. Maybe it was the adrenaline that was pumping through her veins as her mind went into an overloaded state. Whatever it was, she had had enough for one night.

He stood in astonishment not only because of the blow he received, but also because of Aryn’s words. He knew that the only two people she spent time with on a daily basis were Thalia and himself. She had said ‘one of my best friends’.

During the two weeks after, Sherlock didn’t return to Aryn’s dorm. Aryn didn’t even know where Sherlock was. She went to visit him at his dorm and his roommate said he hadn’t been back for several days.

Not again.

She was awkwardly stuck between a sense of panic and a feeling of not caring. She needed someone to be there for her and right now she was alone. For the last week, she had pretty much lived in the library. Distracting herself with loads of schoolwork, Aryn didn’t even give herself time to mourn. She remembered the school counselor contacting her about what had happened, but Aryn ignored the invitation to “discuss how she may be feeling during this rough time”. She actively avoided being in her own dorm, its emptiness a painful reminder of what she had lost.

One night, after the library had closed, she was walking across one of the lawns back to her dorm. Not looking where she was going, she ran into someone. Her books fell all over the grass and she landed on her back. She went from staring down at the blades of grass she was about to step on to gazing up at the stars overhead.

A million white dots graced the dark sky above. It was a beautiful, serene sight, until a familiar face stood over her.

“It was her boyfriend,” he informed, reaching his hand down to Aryn to help her up.

She was confused, standing up straight and brushing the grass off of her back and turning to look at their surroundings. “What? Where were you? What do you mean it was her boyfriend?”

Sherlock shrugged and sighed as he walked around Aryn. “It was her boyfriend. That’s who killed her.”

The tension fell from her shoulders. She felt truly defeated. The person who hurt Thalia had been right under her own nose, staying at her dorm for so many nights with the two of them. If she hadn’t been spending so much time with Sherlock, she would have probably seen the signs earlier. It wasn’t fair to blame Sherlock, though. It was all on her.

“He’s been arrested. Saw to it myself.”

Turning to face Sherlock, her face spoke a million words that never left her lips. Her glassy eyes were fixed upon his, her posture slightly slouched and her arms dangling weakly at her sides. Her books were getting wet with the dew that sat on the grass around her, but she didn’t care.

He finally looked up at her. As they locked gazes, a familiar tightness returned to his chest—the same tightness he had when he had embraced her for the first time on that rooftop. It felt like it happened so long ago. That closeness caused him to feel unfamiliar emotions that frightened him. Thinking back to all that they had been through together, it wasn’t a surprise that he felt so many sentiments for this girl; someone to care for and someone who’d care for him. Having a friend was a luxury for Sherlock that he wasn’t sure he wanted to afford. But looking at Aryn now, he cast away those thoughts and set aside his usual robotic tactics.

To Aryn, his gaze suddenly looked so much more sympathetic than the day they had found Thalia’s body. Her heart felt like it broke into a thousand pieces. For once, she saw him exhibit true emotion. His blue eyes were like crystal pools; they were vibrant and looked at her as if it was the first time he had truly seen her as a colleague—as his friend.

Walking back towards Aryn, he stood toe-to-toe with her. He wasn’t sure how to comfort someone who had experienced so much pain. After a small pause, he softly whispered, “I’m sorry.” He placed his hands behind his back, his body tense and uncertain.

Aryn was surprised by this string of events. It was a side of Sherlock she, and maybe anyone else, had never seen.

She sighed deeply and closed her eyes. Tears began to stream down her face, Sherlock’s actions bringing her to the edge of her emotional capacity. Never, in her wildest dreams, did she think he’d extend that amount of kindness and effort towards her. Out of nowhere, she wrapped her arms around his waist in an embrace.

He was in disbelief. His body tensed up. She cried heavily into his chest. The muffled cries were much greater than the ones she had shown him the night that he saved her from falling off of that building.

Aryn never cried out openly to Sherlock, even when she had first found out Thalia had died. Tears may have escaped her face, but she would never allow more than that. Seeing her cry now, hearing the pain that laced each and every breath and gasp, he realized that she was broken — a mere shadow of the strong person he had met the previous semester.

He tentatively placed his arms around her, pulling her closer to him. More sobs escaped the small body he had brought in, causing him to hold her much tighter in an almost protective way. Resting his head gingerly on hers, he became intoxicated by the combination of the sweet scent of her perfume as well as her favorite shampoo. Her bun had fallen out of place and her hair was flowing freely in the breeze that blew past the two as they stood planted like trees in the middle of the yard.

He closed his eyes as he pressed his lips to the top of her head. He brought his hand up to the base of her neck, his fingers nestling themselves in her brown locks.

Her grip tightened as she poured her soul into Sherlock, unable to find any more words to express not only her sadness, but her appreciation for what he had done.

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