“The only reason I have not disconnected this call already is that I do not, at the moment, have the means to hang up on you acceptably. It would be the greatest of injustices if I failed to make known to you that this call will be terminated with extreme prejudice.”
With all the fierceness allowed by swiping a single finger over the glass face of a smart phone, Sherlock Holmes disconnected the call. Another call rang in instantly. Lestrade. Again. Sherlock hit ignore. It really would be satisfying to smash the mobile into a million pieces.
“It’s important, Sherlock. GL”
“It’s been three hours, Graham. SH”
“I deserved that. It’s about the case. GL”
“Wait… You do know my name isn’t Graham, right? GL”
“Right. We have your suspect in custody. GL”
“Vincent Spaulding, answers to Archie? SH”
“Tall, mean, and ugly? That’s the one. GL”
“Where’s John? SH”
Several frustrating moments passed. Sherlock had been pacing about the sitting room furiously during the exchange, but he found himself frozen in place, holding his breath as the seconds ticked by.
“Answer your phone. GL”
Even with the warning, Sherlock jumped when his phone rang.
“Where is he?” Sherlock’s baritone rumbled threateningly.
“St. Bart’s right now, but… How did you...”
Sherlock flung the flat door open, “Obvious. I will be there momentarily. Text me details. Everyone is going to pay for this. You. Mycroft. Molly. Everyone…”
“SHERLOCK!” Lestrade shouted over the tantrum, bringing Sherlock to a sudden halt halfway down the steps. “I’ve got him. I’m bringing him to Baker Street personally. He’s being released as we speak.”
“Put him on.”
“Uh, no. That’s not happening.”
“Lestrade, I demand to talk to John right now!” Sherlock snarled.
“First off, you sound rabid, and no one, least of all John, needs to deal with that. Secondly, he’s a little worse for wear, and kind of medicated right now. It’ll be better to talk when I get him home.” Lestrade’s calm tone did little to put Sherlock at ease.
Actually, it well and truly set him off.
“Detective Inspector, you hand that phone to John this instant, or so help me…” Sherlock inhaled deeply, composed his thoughts, and launched into a curse laden diatribe, the likes of which would have made even John Watson blush.
Or very, very proud.
Lestrade held his peace for the duration, and waited a beat as Sherlock caught his breath. “Feel better?”
“No,” snapped the still panting Sherlock.
Lestrade chuckled. “John makes it look easy, doesn’t he? The swearing I mean. He’s second to none, a real champ.”
“Lestrade? Do shut up,” Sherlock had calmed his breathing, and taken on a softer tone. “Please, Greg? I just want to check that he’s okay. Please.” The consulting detective knew he sounded pathetic. It was a tactic he used on John often, with mixed results. 62% of the time Sherlock could get what he wanted. Any strategy with a success rate higher than 55% remained in the arsenal until it proved ineffective.
Lestrade was having none of it. “That nonsense might work with John, but not with me.”
Sherlock exhaled in noisy exasperation.
“Look, I’m pulling the car around now. Once he comes out, we’ll be on our way. Maybe see if Mrs. Hudson will make some tea, or…”
“She’s cross with me. “
“Hm, yeah. That was bound to happen. Okay, well, I see him coming out now, so we’ll be there soon.”
“Fine,” Sherlock huffed and threw himself down onto the couch.
“And Sherlock?” Lestrade hesitated.
“Well, just… You might want to actually put some trousers on.” The D.I. tried, unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh.
“How... I... How did you...”
“God, Sherlock. Nothing ever changes. Were you really going to try to catch a cab to Bart’s in your boxers and suit coat?”
There was a moment of awkward silence.
“You’re going to hang up on me now, aren’t you?” Lestrade laughed outright this time.
“Extreme. Prejudice.” Sherlock’s finger hovered over the screen. “Greg? Please hurry.”
Sherlock disconnected the call and settled deep into the couch to think. Yes, definitely to think. Absolutely not to pout. Or brood. And especially not fret.
There seemed to be an inordinate amount of lint clinging to the blanket tucked over the back of the couch.
The case, think about the case. There must be other cases connected to Duncan (not John Clay, never John) Ross.
Hmm. How long had that thread been loose on this pillow?
Observation: Lestrade had been acutely humiliated in the absence of Sherlock's trousers. Information marked as imperative, saved to permanent storage.
John would find that information necessary as well.
What insipid, uninspired name would John label this blog entry? The probability that John's title would include the either the word cocaine, billiard, or tunnel was 82%. Likely something completely overlooking the actual scope of the far reaching crime ring, attempting something more sensational (translation: dull).
Speaking of dull...
Sherlock checked the time. Only seven minutes? It would be at least another 15 before John would arrive. And then only if traffic was moving.
"Lestrade, lights and sirens. SH"
Of course the D.I. wouldn't indulge. Nor would he respond. Especially after Sherlock's scandalous behavior at the train yard earlier. Sherlock smiled despite himself.
The flat was too quiet.
Lifting both legs and he let them drop, just to hear the thud against the couch cushions. And again.
"Mycroft, send me the CCTV footage of John during an assault this afternoon. I know you saw it. SH"
"Network was still down at that time. MH"
"Fortunately for you, everyone with a mobile fancies themselves an independent filmmaker. MH"
"What does that mean? SH"
"YouTube, dear brother. It appears your Doctor Watson is quite the internet sensation. MH"
An incoming email alert pinged on the laptop.
"That’s just the earliest one posted. There are dozens. Some are quite inventive. MH"
Sherlock dove over the coffee table to snatch up the laptop. With a less than graceful spin he dropped into his chair and clicked the link. What he witnessed was both horrifying and magnificent.
Video after video depicted the imposing Vincent Spaulding, Archie, crazed with rage, terrorizing kiosks and shoppers in a shopping center, in an attempted effort to draw someone out of an electronics store. In each and every video, the smaller (by nearly half) form of John Watson ( "Up against Spaulding? Not an ideal time to finally be wearing the sling, John. SH") would eventually appear. In some recordings John could clearly be heard attempting to talk Archie down.
And in every single video Archie would roar and lunge at John.
Even with his injuries, John's stance was impeccable, and his strategy sound. Unfortunately Archie cared little for either stance or strategy, opting for brute force. The dirtier the fight, the better. He seemed alarmingly fond of pulling people, especially children, from the growing crowd and tossing them into the fray in order to trip up conscientious John, who made every effort to keep Archie away from the innocent bystanders.
And Archie appeared to enjoy using props. He ripped a support pole off a nearby kiosk. A skateboard, cricket bat, metal trash receptacle, and a potted plant all came into play. At one point Archie used John's sling, still attached to John's body, to propel him into a concrete pillar.
Admirably John held his own, though it was evident he was not going to fare well by the end of this scrape. Sometime between the trash bin and the potted plant John produced a cord of some sort, and had managed to get it around Archie's neck. Sherlock had to admit, he appreciated the poetic justice of his attacker suffering the same fate he had. That is until the larger man, panicked by the lack of oxygen, bucked back and slammed John into the wall, stunning him enough to knock the cord from his one handed grasp.
Sherlock lost count of the videos he watched. He was enraged by the dirty tactics Archie employed, and the fact that they were all aimed at John only served to add fuel to the fire. In contrast, he found himself overwhelmingly proud of his friend, and the military precision with which he conducted himself, despite being injured, demonstrating a level of focus and brilliant anticipation Sherlock seldom had opportunity to witness.
Not that John was ever anything other than focused and brilliant (though he often focused on the wrong thing, and his brilliance was occasionally accidental). Truth be told, Sherlock was usually too wrapped up in his own brand of brilliance and focus to notice anyone else, especially ever present, consistent, dependable John.
Incredulous, Sherlock grew increasingly agitated as he watched the videos. While a large enough crowd had gathered around the two men, and though it was clear Archie was the aggressor and John the victim, not a single person moved to his aid. It wasn't until he happened upon a video, clearly recorded on a device designed for video recording rather than just a mobile, that Sherlock understood why. The recording device had an excellent microphone, and the sound was crystal clear.
As plain as if he had been sitting in the room, Sherlock could hear John's strained voice pleading with people to stay back, to call for police, to get away from here. The videographer panned the crowd a few times, and Sherlock was relieved to see several people making phone calls, and there were more than a few men in the crowd who could be seen removing their coats, rolling their sleeves up, edging their way forward. Still, John insisted. And so the men stayed back, imposing themselves between the brawl and the spectators. Sherlock could read in their faces the desire for the brute of a man to come near them just once.
The sensitive microphone of the recording device served its purpose well, in that it picked up the sound of every nauseating impact Archie landed on John. It picked up in great detail the angry cries as the thug advanced on the flagging doctor, and the cheers of encouragement any time John made headway against his adversary. There was murmuring and whispering as a few came to the realization, "OH! Isn't that the doctor who goes about with that detective?" "Doctor Watson, isn't it?" "God, he's got a foul mouth, doesn't he. He always seems so proper." "Give it to 'em doc!" "Is this for a case? Is Holmes here?"
Sherlock wished he had been there. He'd had quite enough of watching John Watson's life through the eye of a camera lens for one day, thank you very much. This was completely unacceptable.
Also in great detail, this particular video chronicled the unexpected, and if Sherlock were to be honest with himself, quite thrilling, conclusion to the fight. At some point, as John recovered himself from the potted plant being hurled at him, Archie had produced a taser (Sherlock rewound the video several times, and never came to a satisfying conclusion as to where he had pulled it from). It didn't appear to be of an extremely damaging voltage, but when John lunged at Archie, realizing too late the man had a weapon, he was stunned off his feet and fell to the ground.
The angry crowd grew silent as Archie stood over the heap of a man and laughed a villainous laugh. He reared back and kicked John once, and then a second time. As his foot made contact the second time, Sherlock could hear the sound of growling from somewhere behind the individual with the camera and then someone yelled a single word. German perhaps? It mattered very little, as suddenly a German shepherd wearing a vest identifying it as a service dog tore through the crowd and attacked Archie as he prepared to kick John a third time.
The dog latched on to his target's forearm, and refused to let go as Archie screamed in agony. The cheers of the crowd were raucous, and only increased as John began to stir. The man being mauled by the dog was obviously the central focus of the video at this point, but Sherlock kept his eyes on John. The doctor was clearly in excruciating pain, yet his eyes followed Archie's every movement, and John shifted, almost imperceptibly, into a position that would allow him to defend himself once more if need be. His left hand tucked into his sling and stayed there as he watched Archie carefully.
John's vigilance proved necessary when Archie, having had enough of the dog attack, grabbed the dog by the scruff, and with a feral roar, swung the dog into a nearby wall. With a whimper the dog released its hold and slid to the floor.
"Mycroft, the dog. SH"
"We've already contacted the owner, former soldier, PTSD. He recognized John from one of his tours in Afghanistan. We're taking care of everything. MH"
"Thank you. SH"
"I'd like to meet him. SH"
"That can be arranged. MH"
Archie turned and charged toward John, who kept himself low, appearing defenseless until the very last moment. As the brute landed a foot next John, in preparation of landing another kick, John wrenched with his whole body weight, and landed a blow on Archie's left thigh. The larger man screamed in agony and dropped to his knees immediately. John scrambled to his feet, and stood before Archie, cutting quite the menacing appearance.
"Lay down, now!" John barked. Archie sneered and moved to dive after John.
"You will die in less than three minutes unless you do exactly as I tell you." John had assumed his Captain voice, and something in his tone convinced Archie to obey.
"Wha... what did you do to me?" The hulk of a man was suddenly reduced to whimpering and tears.
Glancing around, John noticed the camera, and motioned for the operator to come closer. "Make sure you get all of this, yeah?" The videographer nodded. "Good, right. Anyone a doctor or a nurse?" John shouted to the crowd. One of the men who had stepped forward earlier rushed over to John.
"I'm a medic."
"Fine." Glancing around once more, John looked down, yanked off his tie, and thrust it at the other man. "Use this as a tourniquet, and tie off that bleed," here John whispered something imperceptible to the medic, who nodded and went to work. "Someone run over to that linens shop, ask for towels and a few pillows. Tell them I'll be over to reimburse them shortly." It was only a matter of moments before the requested items were rushed to the scene.
"Put one pillow under his head, and here, elevate his legs." John inspected the job the medic had done with the makeshift tourniquet. "Good, very good. Leave the pen in there, but keep pressure on the wound with these towels. Did someone call for emergency services?" A chorus of yeses rang from the crowd, who had refused to dissipate, despite the actual fight having ended.
John motioned for the camera to come closer, as he knelt at Archie's head. "My name is Doctor John Watson. Who are you?" Sherlock noted the strain in John's voice. He was going through the motions of being a physician, but Sherlock could tell John had had his fill of this man, and would have been satisfied to leave him to bleed out on the floor.
"Archie!" the other man whimpered.
"We both know that's not your real name," John pressed.
Sniffing back a sob, the other man groaned. "Vincent Spaulding."
"Vincent, do you recognize me?"
"Did you attack and attempt to strangle my associate last night?"
"Do you want to die here? I know you're curious. I stabbed an ink pen into your femoral artery. Right now, with the pen still in there, the tourniquet slowing blood flow, and with the pressure being applied, you'll be fine. All I have to do though is tell this nice young man to back up, and I can pull that pen out, and you'll be gone in," John checked his watch, clearly for impact, "about two minutes."
"God, John." Sherlock gasped. This was a side of John he’d never seen, and didn’t know existed. It was dark and intriguing. He wondered how much of this was pure adrenaline, and how much of this was being pulled from previous military experience. Sherlock couldn't tell if Archie was shaking out of fear, or if he was going into shock, but judging by the set of John's jaw, and the fire in his eyes, if he had to guess, he would say fear was the major factor.
"No! No. Okayokayokay... I did. I attacked him. And Jabez Wilson attacked you. My stepdad Duncan Ross hired him." Archie sniveled pathetically, and grabbed for John's hand, "Please, I don't want to die. I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry. I was angry you found out our plan to rob the bank. Please. Please don't let me die."
"Oh well done! Neutralized the threat, and forced a confession? John Watson, if I believed in heroes, you would be mine. SH"
John patted Archie's hand, more out of habit than actual sympathy, and placed it back on his chest. "You'll be fine. Just stay still." John looked at the medic, still keeping pressure on the leg wound. "You doing okay?" The younger man nodded and smiled. "Right. Can somebody help me up? I'm starting to feel...“ John started to slump to the side, but a couple of the men who had also stepped forward during the fight were there in an instant to support him and get him to his feet. They were helping him to get situated on a nearby bench when a group of medics and officers rushed into the crowd.
Lestrade, clearly shaken by the scene crouched down in front of John. "John? Hey, you okay? We're gonna get you checked out, yeah?"
"Greg... yeah, fine. My... my wallet and everything... it's in the backpack, in the electronics store. Need to pay for the pillows... Can someone..."
"Geez, John," Lestrade scrubbed his hand over his face. "Stop worrying about everything for two seconds and let someone take care of you, yeah?"
"Doctor Watson?" A teenage girl wearing a green apron approached John's bench timidly. "Would you like some coffee? Our treat. To thank you," she held out a cup.
"That'd be wonderful. Thank you," John smiled weakly. Greg took the cup for him, and pressed it into John's left hand. It was clear his strength was near gone.
"Sir," a man wearing a shirt with the logo of the linens shop approached. "Don't worry about the towels and things, one of our customers paid for them. Actually, eight different customers have offered to pay for them." He smiled kindly.
"Oh... okay. Thanks. Thank you. Please pass along my appreciation," John ducked his head in modesty that could in no way be mistaken for anything other than sincere.
The medics converged then, and the camera kept rolling, though from a distance, in order to allow for some privacy, and to catch a glimpse of Archie being hauled away, handcuffed to a gurney. Sherlock's stomach clenched as he watched John willingly allow himself be loaded on to a gurney rather than walk out under his power.
"Wait! Wait, Doctor Watson!" Someone sprinted up to the gurney, with John's backpack in hand. The videographer moved in closer. "Doctor Watson, everything we were discussing has been taken care of, with a few perks. It's all in here," she patted the backpack. "My manager wanted to thank you for keeping that man from hurting anyone else..."
"Is the lady okay? The one he knocked about?" John's face looked panicked for a moment.
"She's fine. The medics checked her, and she's going home."
"Thank God," John sighed and leaned back.
"Well, anyway, everything's been taken care of. And thank you. Get better soon."
John reached up and clasped the woman's hand, "Thank you," whispered, suddenly looking very exhausted.
"Okay, you guys, get him out of here. Bart's, John? Okay, take him to Bart's. I'll be along soon, yeah John?" Lestrade commandeered the situation. The crowd was thinning, but only slightly. The men who had been prepared to jump in to John's aid were standing in a group around the medic who had helped John with Archie, and they watched after John's gurney with an air of protective interest. As John was wheeled through the crowd, people began to clap and shout encouragements to him. The doctor lifted his hand in sort of wave, but his face was flush with embarrassment at the attention being paid him.
"Mycroft, I'd like to send a thank you to the men who offered to help John. SH"
"You catch the whole thing?" Lestrade was addressing the mystery camera person.
"Most of it," the disembodied voice answered. "Not sure who the woman was Doctor Watson mentioned a minute ago. I was over in the food court with some friends working on a project for class when everything started. I got over here before mammoth man started wailing on the doctor though. That dude is crazy!"
"He's a very bad man, caught up in some serious level crime," Lestrade nodded his agreement.
"No, man. Doctor Watson. He's crazy. Half the size of Goliath, took a serious beat down, got tased, and still dropped the big guy like it was his job. And then saved his freaking life. Who does that?"
Lestrade laughed. "Would you believe me if I told you that IS his job? Here," Lestrade handed the person behind the camera a card. "D.I. Greg Lestrade with Scotland Yard. Send me everything you filmed, okay?"
"Sure thing. And detective, you'll let me know how he's doing?"
"Absolutely." They shook hands. "And to answer your question, John Watson. That's who does that." The video ended there.
"Mycroft, the film student? SH"
"Identified, and rewarded handsomely. MH"
That particular video was not even 15 minutes long. That's how quickly the whole thing had happened. Sherlock checked the time, it had been 35 minutes since Lestrade had called. What could possibly be keeping them?
"You're punishing me for earlier, aren't you Lestrade? SH"
Just to occupy his mind, Sherlock clicked on the next video link in the queue. The description contained the phrase "auto tune." Sherlock had no idea what that meant. As the video came up, some rather dubious sounding electronic music started. Sherlock nearly stopped the video when John's voice, clearly digitally manipulated, began in on one of his more colorful strings of obscenities. Fascinated, and most definitely entertained, Sherlock let the video play. The creator of the video had made it clear in his description that the video was a tribute to the epic nature of Doctor Watson, and in no way meant to harm his character.
There was a link to a downloadable version of the song.
"Oh, yes. This will come in handy," Sherlock's grin was deviously shark like.
He played the video four more times. As the video ended the final time, Sherlock glanced up, and there in the doorway stood John, eyes wide, backpack slung over his left shoulder, and a half eaten scone in his left hand, which was frozen halfway to his gaping mouth.
"Nothing!" cried Sherlock in surprise, as he slammed the laptop closed, and nearly dropped it on the floor.
"What. Was. That?"
"Nothing. Nothing, it's nothing," the two men stared at each other. "Just... my new favorite song," Sherlock bit his lip to keep from smiling.
"Oh God, they didn't?" John sighed, limped over to his chair, sat his backpack on the floor and dropped into his seat. He closed his eyes and just sat there, unmoving, for several moments. Opening his eyes he huffed a laugh. "So..."
Sherlock spoke at the same moment. "What..." He cleared his throat, and decided to press on, so John couldn't get out of answering his questions. "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving this morning?"
"I did. Twice, actually. But you were..." John paused and narrowed his eyes. His mouth quirked into a little smile that revealed he knew more than he was letting on, "...uh, 'thinking.' I left you a note."
"No, you didn't," Sherlock crossed his arms in a pout.
"Did. I can see it from here. There..." John pointed to an index card laying just under the couch.
How had that gotten there?
They stared at each other another moment. "No, please, let me," John grunted as he moved to stand up. Sherlock blinked, jumped up, dove over the coffee table and ran his hand under the couch until he felt the card. He stood upright, stepped over the table, and stared down at the card as he stomped back to his chair.
"Sherlock," he read aloud, "Not going to clinic today. Meeting Lestrade for coffee at 7:30, then letting the doctor check me over around 8 at Bart's if you want to meet me. Dr. MacGregor, third floor. Need to drop my phone off to be repaired, it doesn't work at all. Meeting Mycroft at noon. Thought we could meet Lestrade at the Yard to talk about the case after that, and then I need to talk to you about a few things this evening. -John"
Sherlock examined the card carefully, flipped it over, and scrutinized the blank, unlined side in an effort to avoid looking at John.
John cleared his throat. "Mrs. Hudson sends her regards." Sherlock groaned as he looked up in time to see John finish off his scone. John unzipped his backpack, pulled out a recognizable tin, and tossed it to his flat mate. "Don't you dare tell her I shared those with you. We'd be doomed if she hated both of us at once."
"What did she tell you?"
"Enough," John rolled his eyes. "Idiot."
Stopping mid-bite Sherlock sniffed, "Flowers? I thought I told you to get her something NICE John. And Gerber daisies, no less." He shook his head in disgust.
"The flowers were from me. I always buy Mrs. Hudson flowers on May 4th," John's words were deliberate.
"Oh," Sherlock shrugged, followed quickly by another, "OH."
"Figured it out, did you?"
"Eventually, no thanks to your little tea party with Lestrade."
"Ah. I suppose I can thank Mycroft for you seeing that, yeah?" John looked over Sherlock's shoulder to the camera hidden on the bookshelf, pantomimed cutting his throat by dragging a finger across his neck and then pointed at the camera.
"You knew that camera was there?"
"Been there for weeks. It's the least intrusive one yet, so I left it alone hoping he'd leave us alone. Fat lot of good that did." Sherlock laughed in appreciation. "So, if the flowers were from you, what did I get Mrs. Hudson?"
"Oh, it's lovely. You got her a fully loaded tablet. Really, quite generous of you. She'd been wanting one, but couldn't justify the expense." John grinned an exasperating grin as Sherlock slumped into his chair. "She's just about ready to forgive you. You might have to show her how to work the thing, if you really want to make things right."
"Johnnn," Sherlock whined. "I meant a cookbook, or, or, I don't know what. Anything really. Anything besides something that would require my involvement. And to that note, how did I pay for the thing if I wasn't with you?"
John paused, "We'll get to that in a minute. Actually, I was going to make you pay for it, but they didn't end up charging me anything. It's the best model out, and they just gave it to me. I take it you saw the video from my 'altercation' earlier. The lady from the phone store told me they took care of everything for me. Didn't realize they cancelled the charge for the tablet. And a few other things."
John dug around in his backpack again, and pulled out the newest version of his phone. "Mine was completely dead after last night. I just went in to replace it, but they upgraded it for me. And here," John tossed Sherlock a box. "New replacement phone. Or use it, and keep the old one for a replacement. I didn't even ask about your phone, they must've looked up the account, and just processed the upgrade. So, there you go."
"Splendid!" Sherlock clapped in glee, and tore open the new box. The new phone was beautiful, the store had charged it, and transferred all of his information. "Excuse me one moment, John."
Sherlock gingerly laid the new phone on the arm of his chair, jumped up and fished his old phone from his jacket pocket. He made it to the stairwell in six long strides, and with all the force he could muster, he threw the mobile down the steps. John jumped in his seat, but refrained from commenting. "Oh ho, yes. YES," Sherlock shouted as he very nearly skipped down the steps, collected the pieces, and then ran back up.
Dropping the broken mobile in the middle of the floor, he retrieved the fireplace poker, and proceeded to smash the remaining bits of phone into fragments. Scooping up the resulting crumbs, Sherlock turned to the nearest window, threw it open and flung the debris out like confetti. He returned to his arm chair and sat down, putting on an air of dignified nonchalance.
Another moment of staring passed between the flat mates.
"New boxers?" John quipped.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow, and couldn't help the deep laugh that escaped.
"God Sherlock," John snorted.
"I suppose Lestrade told you about the train yard?"
"He did," John nodded. "But Sally sent pictures."
"Of course she did," Sherlock rolled his eyes.
John laughed and leaned back down once more to dig through his backpack. "Okay, I picked this up for you too. I hope it will work the way you intended."
Sherlock's eyes lit up. "Is this... does it... NO. This is for real?" There was more tearing of packages, and Sherlock held in his hands a phone charging dock that looked like an actual desk phone, complete with spiral cord and receiver. He tripped over his own feet as he scrambled to plug the dock cord into the wall outlet next to the table. He inserted his new phone into the cradle, plugged the receiver cord into the headphone jack of his phone, and turned to John. "Call me. Callmecallmecallme. Quick, John!" Sherlock was literally bouncing with excitement.
This really was his own fault.
He dialed Sherlock, and nearly choked when the phone rang and the ringtone was the auto tuned song of him swearing. "When did you even set that? Make it stop! Answer the bloody thing!" John shouted in embarrassment.
Sherlock grinned and answered the call, holding the receiver to his ear.
"Change that ringtone NOW," John shouted into his phone.
"No." And with that, Sherlock slammed down the receiver. John pulled his mobile from his ear in shock. "Marvelous. You, John Watson, you are brilliant." Sherlock proceeded to call John's clinic (Mary answered, to his delight), Lestrade, and Mycroft. As soon as each call was answered, he slammed down the receiver, not saying a word.
Very satisfying indeed. Very.
"No landline required," John added, clearly pleased that Sherlock was pleased.
"It is purple though. I did request black."
"About that. This particular item is marketed to 12 year old girls and grandmothers who are afraid of technology. They had hideous floral, rainbow zebra print, bedazzled pink, and bright purple. I thought you liked purple?"
"Oh, I do. But next time? Zebra print. Always Zebra print, John."
"Shut up," John laughed. "But seriously, change your ringtone."
"Absolutely not. It's my new favorite song." Sherlock narrowed his eyes, daring John to challenge him on this. He had no intention of ever relenting on this one. He maintained his stare until John shifted in his chair, winced in pain and cursed under his breath.
"And now, to the matter at hand," Sherlock took John's admission of pain as an opportunity to finally get some answers. "Status report, doctor."
John sighed. "My original assessment of initial injuries was correct. Dislocated shoulder (which was popped back into place perfectly, no thanks to you!). Four bruised ribs, where I landed on the billiards table. Slight sprain left wrist. No broken bones. Multiple scrapes, cuts and bruises."
"And now?" Sherlock questioned, though there were very visibly more injuries, and John seemed to be favoring his right shoulder even more than he had last night.
"Yeah, this time around was a little worse. Most damage was sustained to my right side. Mr. Spaulding caught sight of a weakness and attempted to exploit it." John flexed his left hand and clenched it. "Glad I'm left handed. Left wrist sprain is more severe. Deep tissue bruising over most my torso. Obvious bruising around my eyes, split lip, no stitches required and no damage to facial bones. Concussion. Six broken ribs. There was initial concern about internal bleeding, but that was ruled out. Though there is bruising to the liver and spleen, so no fighting bad guys for a few months; one wrong punch and I could end up with a bleed. Sprains of the right ankle and knee. Supposed to stay off my leg, but I've got no way to use crutches or cane right now. Broken index and middle finger on right hand, from being kicked. Doctor said my arm being in the sling probably saved me from a rib puncturing a lung. The right shoulder was dislocated again, despite the sling. No nerve damage, but it's going to be very weak for a very long time. And, broken right collar bone."
"Broken? How is that treated?" Sherlock was staring at John's collar bone, doing a very poor job of masking the displeasure he felt at his friend's plight.
"Well, it was a clean break, thank God, so I just keep wearing the sling to keep the bone from moving any at all. In a week I'll go back, they'll check to make sure nothing has moved. If not, it'll probably just heal on its own. If there is movement, then I'll have to have surgery. And physical therapy no matter what." Despite being the one who was injured, John had started speaking in his soothing physician voice, in an effort to calm and comfort Sherlock. It didn't appear to be working.
"It's a good thing Spaulding and Ross are already in custody. Otherwise, I'd kill them both," Sherlock snarled.
John stared back in disbelief.
"You should have let him bleed out when you had the chance, John. After what he did to you, I would have." There was rage in Sherlock's eyes that truly startled John.
"Awfully dark, yeah? You know I couldn't do that. And I know you wouldn't actually either. It wouldn't have been worth it."
"YOU are worth it," Sherlock shouted and punctuated the statement by slamming both fists down on the arms of his chair.
Choosing his words carefully, John replied, "Thank you for saying so. I know that you truly believe that. I do. But it's not what I meant. I would have lost my medical license if I could have helped him, but let him bleed out anyway."
"No judge would have faulted you," Sherlock snapped.
"I would have blamed myself."
"That's insane! John, you were defending yourself!"
"I was," John's tone remained even and calm. "But you know me. I wouldn't have been able to get past the fact that he could have been saved, and I did nothing. And then I would've been an even bigger mental case than I already am. And then you'd really have no use for me." John's smile was unconvincing at best.
"John," Sherlock's voice broke. "How could you ever..."
With a raised hand, John silenced his friend. "Wait, Sherlock. There's something else." John cleared his throat, and shifted uncomfortably. "He um, he was never in any real danger. I didn't actually puncture his femoral artery."
"You lied?" Sherlock gasped, taken completely off guard. "There was so much blood!"
"Well, you stab someone with a blunt enough object, like a pen, and it's going to tear a lot of things. And that wound is deep. I know I hit bone. Made sure of it. That medic was a good sport and played along.”
“You lied. To force a confession.” The consulting detective thoughtfully considered this fact.
“Apparently that’s something I do now. I blame it on the company I keep,” John shrugged, and then winced in pain. “God, I keep forgetting.”
“You lied. John Watson lied.”
“Right. We’ve established that,” John rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand. He had an idea of where Sherlock’s line of thinking was headed.
“Any other lies, doctor?” Sherlock retrieved the calling card from the Law Offices of Lakhany, Slate, Vogel, and Weir from his pocket and flipped it across to John.
“Explain this. Now,” Sherlock demanded through clenched teeth.
“Just to clarify, you’re angry because I have a secret, which is not the same as a lie, and you found out about it whilst you were snooping through my personal belongings?”
“John.” The name was said more as a warning than anything else.
“Right. Just making sure we’re on the same page.” John sighed in resignation. “We weren’t supposed to be discussing this like this, with me broken to bits and you all angry and murderous. God, we can’t do anything like normal people, can we?” He rifled through his backpack once more and pulled out two leather portfolios. Laying one on the armrest beside him, he held the other one up. “Sherlock Holmes, this is your life.”
“A few weeks after your ‘death’ Mycroft approached me. Told me you left me everything in your will. Said I was to be executor of your estate. Arranged meetings with Mr. Lakhany to settle everything. I was still so distraught, I didn’t question anything, didn’t actually read anything, and didn’t even consider the dubious nature of the whole thing. If I had been paying attention, it certainly would have helped explain a few other things, but I was already so distracted, I figure that’s what Mycroft had planned for all along.” John glanced up at Sherlock, whose features had softened drastically from the anger of a few moments ago.
“I came back to the flat from those meetings, locked the portfolio in the safe, and never pulled it out again. Never even looked at it to see what it was I was executor of. Now that I know, I’m pretty angry at myself. I would have sold all this crap and moved someplace tropical.” John attempted a smile, though it never made it to his eyes.
Sherlock huffed a laugh. “I wish you would have. John, I’m so sorry…”
“No, Sherlock. Don’t, please,” John inhaled deeply and continued. “When you came back, the very next day, I pulled out the portfolio, and had Mycroft arrange a meeting with Mr. Lakhany. Figured you’d want your stuff back, and that it would be easier for everyone involved if I could get started without involving you. Turns out, it’s a lot more complicated to bring someone back to life than it is to kill them, especially on paper. It’s taken this whole time to get everything sorted, but finally, you are officially listed back among the living. But now you have to make a choice, do you want me to sign my access to your information fully back over to you, or do you want to keep me listed as someone who has access? And you can determine the level of access I have. Do you want me to have access to banking information? To medical records, and for making medical decisions? Or to stand in proxy for you, even in legal matters?”
John handed the portfolio to Sherlock. “It’s all set up. You just have to sign the appropriate lines. And just know, you won’t hurt my feelings, no matter what you decide.”
Sherlock was speechless. Truly, fully speechless.
“You’re alive, Sherlock Holmes.” John’s smile was genuine this time.
“John, I… How can I ever thank you? I don’t… Of course I want you to have access. To everything.” Sherlock stammered.
“I’m glad to hear you say that, because this,” John held up the second portfolio, “Is all of me. Granted, my assets are nothing to be impressed by, and if you sold all my crap you wouldn’t be able to move down the street, let alone someplace tropical. But it’s all there. Access to everything, banking, medical, and legal. All you have to do is sign the line accepting responsibility, but only if you’re comfortable doing so.” He handed the second portfolio to Sherlock.
“I know it’s long been a dream of yours to get your hands on my military personnel file. It’s in there. Some of it’s redacted, but if there’s anything you have questions about, I’ll do my best to answer them. Also, and I did lie to about this, and I’m sorry, but my MI6 personnel file is there too. Of course, almost all of that has been redacted, and I can’t really elaborate on any of that, but it’s there too.”
“MI6? Wait. You…” Sherlock was starting to get agitated again. “I’m going to kill Mycroft.”
“Oh, come off it. You KNEW I was helping sort through medical records and doing background research on potential threats. When you came back Mycroft TOLD me he sent you my notes. I know you knew, Sherlock. Unless we have a case, I still report on Tuesdays. Don’t you ever wonder where I go when I’m not here with you?”
“Your calendar shows 'work' listed, I assumed clinic! Why would you keep working for Mycroft? He was supposed to end the contract when I came home! And why wouldn’t either of you tell me?” Sherlock had moved beyond anger to hurt. The fact that his best friend would willingly work with his brother was truly alarming. “Wait. So when I came back, did Mycroft tell you he knew about me? And that little obscene display, with agents and the tires, was all for my benefit? To keep me in the dark?”
John ducked his head. “Yeah, sorry about that. Mycroft thought it would be best if you didn’t know. If it makes it any better, I was genuinely angry with him. He didn't know I was going to slash the tires. He’s still mad I’m telling you now.” John made eye contact with the camera. “And why do I do it? Because I love it. It’s fascinating. And while you were gone, it was something I could do to feel like I was contributing to society again. It’s the reason I started reviewing abuse cases for Scotland Yard as a medical consultant.”
“WHAT? You failed to mention that one as well.”
“No, no I didn’t. Every Thursday, as long as we are not on a case. I showed you my credentials? You pickpocketed them, and I had to pay to get them replaced?”
Sherlock crossed his arms and exhaled deeply in frustration. “He never sends you on missions, does he? Because if something were to happen to you…”
“No, never field work. Just research. Though, not for lack of trying on my part. Especially while you were gone. But now that you’re back? I’ve got more than enough adventure to deal with.” At that, John pointed at his right shoulder. “I just, I didn’t want to keep any secrets from you. When I thought you were dead, it nearly killed me. I don’t want to not know. Ever again. And I couldn’t ask that of you without being able to offer the same back.”
“So why? Why go through all of this?” Sherlock held up the folders. “Why not just tell me the truth? Unless… No…” With that the portfolios were tossed to the side and Sherlock was on his knees crowding in on John’s personal space, grasping onto John’s left hand as if he were about to slip away forever, and staring into his eyes.
“You’re dying. I’m an idiot. How could I have not seen it?” Sherlock was truly frantic. John could see his flat mate’s mind working as he tried to fit the pieces together. “Oh, it all makes sense, settling your estate, the oncology doctor. God, John. When were you going to tell me? What is it? What’s the course of action? Mycroft will make sure we can get you the very best care.”
“You can’t die. Do you hear me? I won’t allow it. I nearly lost my mind when I only thought you were in danger. I don’t know what I would do if you actually died.” Sherlock was near tears at this point.
Sherlock Holmes was crying.
“No John, I have something I have to say. It can’t wait any longer,” Sherlock inhaled deeply and steeled his nerves. “I am rubbish at sentiment. You know this. I am unpleasant, rude, obnoxious, and generally dismissive of anyone who does not fit my idea of worthy, which is nearly everyone. Then I met you, and, I still, to this day, do not understand it. How is it possible that the bravest, kindest, wisest, most complex person I have ever had the good fortune to encounter actually chose to be my friend? My best friend, in fact. You have endured so much. Even when you thought I was dead, you never really abandoned me, but continued the work. You’ve sacrificed for me, endured torture (occasionally at my own hand) for me, killed for me, and as recently as today, nearly been killed for me. I may be ignorant when it comes to emotions and how the human heart works, but even I know that what we are is unique. It’s not a romantic sort of love, but it is love all the same, isn’t it? I think I finally understand. Friends, companions, associates, brothers in arms. There isn’t a label to describe us. We’re Sherlock and John. And from this moment on, I swear, I will spend the rest of your days trying to be for you all that you have been to me, no matter how many days that is.”
Sherlock sat back on his heels, head bowed, still gripping John’s hand, waiting for John to react. It didn’t really matter how John responded, Sherlock had poured out his heart, and he had meant every word.
“God Sherlock,” John was crying now too. “That was… beautiful.” He squeezed Sherlock’s hands. “Hey, look at me. That was beautiful. Perfect. I could never in a million years have hoped to ever hear those words from anyone, but you have no idea how happy I am that it was you. You’re right, what we have is unique. And peculiar. And yes, it is love in its own right. I don’t even know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
“Well, no, I really do,” John bit his lip to keep from smiling. “God, you’re going to hate me. Sherlock, you idiot, I’m not dying. God.”
With that revelation, Sherlock yanked his hands from John’s and scrambled backwards frantically, until he bumped into the barrier of his arm chair. “What. What? But, the estate? And the oncology doctor? WHAT?”
“I told you why I wanted to give you access to my records. No more secrets. And Doctor MacGregor, Matt, is an old friend from university. We served a tour together in Afghanistan. We’re both notoriously bad patients, and find civilian general practitioners unbearable, so we agreed to treat each other. He sees me at his office, and I see him at the clinic. He’s just my doctor, Sherlock.”
“You’re really not dying?” Sherlock whispered.
“Not yet any way,” John laughed.
Pulling himself up into his chair, Sherlock sat back with a growl. “I hate you.”
“Nope. No you don’t. I think you actually just told me you love me.”
“That was stated under duress, while I was under the assumption that you were terminally ill. The statement is null and void.”
“Who made the assumption? I never implied once that I was dying. You came to that conclusion on your own,” John still grinned, and shook his head. “Idiot.”
“I still hate you,” Sherlock snapped, sounding very much like a petulant three year old.
“Yeah, I love you too Sherlock.”
“Hate. I. Hate. You.” Sherlock pointed at John.
“Mm hm. Do you want some tea? I think I’m going to make some tea.” John moved to stand up, and gasped as pain radiated up his right leg. He sat back down quickly. “Okay, pain meds first.”
“Oh, just sit down! Don’t be a child, John,” Sherlock stood and slid a footstool over to John’s chair. “You should’ve had that elevated this whole time anyway. And you’re probably in need of an ice pack. You really ought to be more attentive when it comes to caring for your injuries.”
Sherlock stomped into the kitchen and started slamming drawers and cabinets, and filling the kettle. He stalked back in with two packs of frozen peas wrapped in kitchen towels, and thrust them out to John. “Here.”
“Thank you?” John raised his eyebrows at Sherlock.
“Welcome,” Sherlock grumbled as he turned away. When he reached the kitchen doorway, he stopped and turned slowly. “John?”
“Will you, some day, when you’re ready, tell me what you and Lestrade were doing on the roof of St. Bart’s today? I… I didn’t like seeing you up there. I don’t want you to go up there anymore.”
“Yeah. Um, yes, of course. We meet up there on your… uh, anniversary… every year. I can tell you about it, if you really want.” John looked uncertain.
“I do. I really want to know.”
“I’ll ask Mycroft to send over the videos. That’ll help explain.” John pulled out his mobile.
”Mycroft, can you send me the videos of Greg and me on the roof of Bart’s? All of them? JW”
”Are you sure, John? MH”
”I think it’s time. JW”
Sherlock set two mugs of tea on the coffee table. “Maybe the couch would be more comfortable? You can put your foot up, and we can put the laptop between us?”
“Fine, that will work,” John nodded in agreement, and moved more carefully to stand. He slowly made his way over, distracted as he allowed Sherlock to help him get settled. They both looked up startled when an incoming messaged pinged on the laptop.
"If we're going to do this, you cannot interrupt me," John's voice wavered. Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "No, Sherlock. No. You always talk, and I always listen. I may not understand, but I always listen. And eventually you help me to see. Well, it's my turn to talk now."
"But, I was alive John," Sherlock condescended.
John looked away, and took a deep breath. "Yes, Sherlock, I know that now. But I wasn't."