John Watson stared out the front window of his car, watching the yellow lines zip past and disappear. He'd been driving through the night, and the sun was just beginning to rise, bathing the land in front of him in a soft golden light. In the distance, he could see the start of a massive city stretching on and on and upwards towards the sky as if trying to immerse themselves in the clouds.
John looked at the duffle bag sitting on the passenger side seat out of the corner of his eye. A brief image of black suits and white flowers flashed through his mind and he looked back quickly towards the city in the distance.
He hadn't even noticed when he'd passed out of Scotland and into England. He supposed that was a good thing; it would make it easier to blend in with other people.
London, however, was a different story. It was big, bigger than the small city he'd lived in in Scotland, and as John drove through the outskirts, watching the buildings get grander and taller, he felt a pang of worry in his chest.
What if he couldn't find the address? What if, even when he did find it, there was no one there and he was left on his own? John's hands shook against the steering wheel, and he gripped it tighter to regain control.
He'd be fine. He repeated those words in his mind as he looked down at his GPS, turning as it instructed, until he pulled up in front of a weathered blue door.
221b Baker Street. The rundown building stood adjacent to a small bakery, and as John stepped out of his car, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder, he could smell the scent of bread wafting out from the shop.
The brass doorknocker was hanging askew, so John rang the bell. He waited a few moments, rocking back and forth on his heels and looking up at the windows that overlooked the street. He thought he saw a flash of motion in one of the upper ones, but before he could look closer the door opened to reveal an older woman wearing a patterned dress and a warm smile.
"John!" she said, and John felt relief wash over him.
"Ms. Hudson," he replied. Ms. Hudson stepped to the side, and John walked past her into the entryway. Ms. Hudson shut the door with a bang behind him, and then turned and wrapped him in a tight hug.
"Oh John, I'm so glad you made it here safely," she said, releasing him. "You're much too young to have to drive all that way."
"I'm 18, Ms. Hudson," John laughed, but her words struck a pang of sadness in him. He suppressed it and forced a smile on his face. "I'm plenty old enough."
Ms. Hudson fell silent. "Yes, I suppose so," she said quietly.
John swallowed, and spoke quickly. "Thanks again for letting me stay here," he said, hefting his duffle bag more securely onto his shoulder.
"It's no trouble," Ms. Hudson said, starting up the rickety wooden stairs. John followed, glancing around at the faded wallpaper, curling at the edges. This was home now. John found himself comparing it to wide expanses of hills and a white clapboard country home tucked away between them, and coughed to release the tension in his throat.
"There's just one thing, John," Ms. Hudson said after a short pause. They'd reached the top of the stairs, and there was a door at the end of a short hallway, standing slightly ajar. "I only had one room available and, well…"
John frowned slightly. "Yes?"
All of a sudden, a loud banging sound erupted from the room in front of them, and John started slightly. There was a muffled curse, then silence.
John stepped forward and pushed open the door. It swung open to reveal a large living room, cluttered with chairs and papers and boxes, sunlight streaming in through a window on the opposite wall. On the floor next to one of the couches was a boy, wrapped in a blue blanket. As John watched, the boy groaned and rolled closer to the couch.
John turned and looked at Ms. Hudson, who was standing in the doorway. She had an apologetic look on her face. "I'm afraid you'll have to share."
John glanced over his shoulder at the boy, who was lying motionless on the ground. "Share?" he repeated. "With him?" He met Ms. Hudson's gaze. "Who is he?"
"Sherlock Holmes." The voice came from behind John, and he spun around to see the boy standing up, the blanket wrapped around him like a toga. He looked about John's age, with curly black hair that was rumpled in places and deep blue eyes that shone light in the sun. John expected him to extend one of his hands, but instead he said, "We're flatmates then?"
"Flatmates?" John echoed, still trying to process the boy who stood in front of him, who was there but not at the same time—he had a sort of manner about him that made him seem almost detached from the rest of the world.
Sherlock sighed. "Yes, flat mates." He looked past John at Ms. Hudson. "Is he always like this?"
Ms. Hudson sighed. "Be nice, Sherlock." She put a hand on John's shoulder, as if to reassure him, and then left the room, the door swinging shut behind him.
Sherlock was studying John. John edged around him and dropped his duffle bag next to the couch, and he was about to sit down when Sherlock spoke.
"How did they die?"
John stumbled and caught his balance just in time to stop himself from falling. Slowly, he turned around to see Sherlock watching him, his hands clasped behind his back and his sapphire eyes meeting John's. "Excuse me?" John managed.
"Your parents," Sherlock said, his voice flat, as if he wasn't asking John one of the most personal questions he could possibly ask. He crossed the room and sat in a patterned armchair opposite to the couch. "How did they die?"
John swallowed and sat down on the couch, his hands shaking slightly. He set them on his knees so the boy across from him, looking upon him with hard eyes, wouldn't see. "I hardly think that's any of your business," he said, his voice choked slightly.
Sherlock was silent. John cleared his throat. "Did Ms. Hudson tell you?" he asked. He dearly hoped she hadn't—she was a close family friend, and he didn't think she would tell information like that to any boy who happened to be living in her building—but he couldn't think of any other way Sherlock would have known.
John had taken a class once, back in his second year of high school, about solving crimes. He'd preferred medicine, but the class had had a certain allure to it. There had been one unit about people's ticks—ways to tell if they were lying. John knew almost every tick a person could have—shifty eyes, fidgeting hands, crossing and uncrossing of legs—and Sherlock was showing none of them. Either he was an exceptional liar, or he was telling the truth.
"How could you possibly know then?" John said after a moment.
"I didn't know," Sherlock said, steepling his fingers underneath his chin and leaning forward, setting his elbows on his knees and locking eyes with John. "I noticed."
John must have looked unconvinced, because Sherlock sighed. "It's obvious, isn't it? You're moving into Ms. Hudson's building, and she has no close family members, so therefore you're a friend. You're young, eighteen years old judging by your body structure, not yet moved out though you've graduated high school—simple, it's June and you're a boy of average intelligence so you wouldn't have skipped a grade or been held back, therefore just graduated. Your duffle bag is full, more things than you'd need if this were just a trip, so this is permanent—at least that's your intention. The way Ms. Hudson touched your shoulder before she left and how she behaved around you suggested she cares about you but is being very careful about what she does, possibly because you're mentally unstable, more likely because the instability is emotional. You've just graduated, not yet in college—going for medicine, judging by your Cambridge University duffle bag. Smart choice, by the way, if you can get in.
Sherlock had a gleam in his eyes that made him seem vibrant and alive. "So where are your parents? Not with you—only one car door slam and one pair of footsteps—and if they were at home or elsewhere Ms. Hudson would have asked you about them, but she didn't, and combining this with all the other elements leaves one most likely conclusion: your parents are recently deceased and you've come to live with Ms. Hudson because you have no other place to go." Sherlock put his hands on the sides of the armchair and leaned forward. "Do you see? I noticed."
Amazing, John wanted to say. Absolutely brilliant. The boy in front of him could look at a person and know their plans for the future and the ghosts of their past, and that intrigued John to no end, but the praises got stuck in his throat. He swallowed, the room suddenly seeming too crowded and stuffy, and Sherlock's head cocked slightly, as if he was sensing John's discomfort. John prepared himself for more deductions, not sure if he was dreading or looking forward to them, when Sherlock sat back and closed his eyes. "Nice to meet you, John Watson," he said, his voice unreadable.
John opened his mouth and then closed it again. Then, he stood up and grabbed his wallet from his duffle bag and his keys from the table beside the door. John took a step out the door, then paused and looked back over his shoulder at Sherlock.
"Pleasure to meet you as well, Sherlock Holmes," he said quietly. When Sherlock didn't say anything, John left him sitting in the flat and used his GPS to locate the nearest grocery store.
John had no idea what kind of things Sherlock ate, so he bought a wide variety of items and left with enough food to last them at least a week or two. He assumed he'd be staying that long.
On the car ride back to the flat, John took the opportunity to study London, taking in the towering buildings and the people rushing about. A surge of emotions rushed through him as he remembered his father talking about London. "It's like the heart of England," he'd say, "with veins and arteries pumping people in and out." At the time, John had longed to see the city his father spoke so fondly of. Now, he wished he'd never had to come.
As John parked in front of 221B and carried the groceries up to the door, he noticed that somebody had straightened the doorknocker. John balanced one of the bags against his hip and opened the door, kicking it closed behind him. As he ascended the stairs, he could hear voices from above—Sherlock's and another boy's. John paused outside the door to the flat, debating whether or not to enter, before slowly turning the handle.
The door swung open to reveal two boys standing in the center of the flat, facing one another. John could see Sherlock's face over the strange boy's shoulder, his mouth turned downwards. "Well I don't care what the bloody Scotland Yard thinks, do I Mycroft?" he snapped.
The boy, who must have been Mycroft, sighed heavily. "No, Sherlock, but you should try and be a bit more cooperative with them, since they can't pick up a bit of evidence if it was sitting on their feet." He paused, and then turned around sharply to face John. He had dark eyes and darker hair and a formality in the way he held himself, like he knew himself to be above the rest of the world and had long since accepted that fact. He was wearing a dark blue, tailored suit and he looked to be a few years older than Sherlock. John wasn't quite sure if he was supposed to great him, so he settled for a small smile in his direction that faltered and died when it was unrequited.
"Who is this?" Mycroft asked, not looking at Sherlock. He was still studying John, much in the same way Sherlock had when John had first stepped into the flat. "Did he follow you home?"
"Hello," John said, stepping forward and pausing a moment before setting the groceries on the floor and extending a hand to Mycroft. "I'm John, John Watson. I'm Sherlock's new… flat mate."
Mycroft stared at John's hand for a few moments before taking it and shaking it once. "Nice to meet you John. Mycroft Holmes."
John looked first at Mycroft, who had released John's hand immediately after shaking, and then at Sherlock, who had sat down onto one of the sagging couches and had his fingers to his temples. "So you two are related then?" he said.
"Brothers," Mycroft said, but before he could say anything else Sherlock spoke.
"Yes, brothers. Now, brother mine, tell Scotland Yard that their 'murderer' is really a grave robber who has dug 3 graves already and is going to dig a fourth in… 24 hours, and to stop bothering me with their boring problems!"
Mycroft gave Sherlock a look that bordered on exasperation. "Lestrade's offer still holds, little brother."
Sherlock stood up and walked over towards the door. "What was I going to say…? Oh, yes. Goodbye." He held open the door and gestured towards the opening.
Mycroft gave Sherlock a withering look as he passed him. "You can't keep living off of Ms. Hudson forever, Sherlock."
Sherlock shut the door in Mycroft's face, effectively ending the conversation. He then walked back into the main area of the flat and sank down on an armchair. "Mycroft's always been the boring one," he said, curling his fingers around the arms of the chair. "'Oh, look at me, I'm 23 and already part of the British Government. I wear a suit, see?' It's rubbish." Sherlock looked at John, who was still standing in the same spot he'd begun. "You should put those away. The milk's already begun to warm."
John bit his lip. "Right." He carried the bags into the kitchen, leaving Sherlock sitting in his chair, staring off into the distance.
John knew next to nothing about Sherlock. He knew he had a brother named Mycroft, that Scotland Yard wanted him for something, and that he had the uncanny ability to see your life written in the way you looked and acted. Sherlock seemed to know everything about him, and John knew it should make him feel instable, but it sparked something inside of him, a sort of drive to get to know the boy who acted as if he was indifferent to the rest of the world.
Who was Sherlock Holmes?