ellie_hell: (Macarons)
[personal profile] ellie_hell
Title: The Pull of One Magnet to Another - Part 1
Rating: R (Sexual activities)
Warnings: Mention of animal cruelty.
Beta: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] anarion who is always an inspiring plot consultant, and to [livejournal.com profile] omletlove who was an all-star beta, both for SPAG and plot; I couldn’t have hoped for a better beta, she’s amazing.
Pairing: Sherlock/John, with a tiny hint of Mycroft/Lestrade.
Word Count: 46 500 total, 6390 this part.
Summary: Mummy has arranged Mycroft’s marriage with an ex-army doctor. However, John meets Sherlock first, and sparks fly.
Notes: Written several months ago for a prompt on the kink meme, but I wasn’t happy with it at the time, so I gave it a huge makeover. If anyone from the meme is reading this, I want to thank you for your huge support. The title comes from the song I Was Married by Tegan and Sara.

If you're interested in the Russian translation, follow this link!
There is also some art (NSFW) and a video (I'm so excited!)l

Prologue

The three Holmeses were having tea in the Winter Garden restaurant of the very prestigious Landmark Hotel. The location had been Victoria Holmes’ idea; she had chosen it for its proximity to Baker Street because she knew her youngest son well enough to realise he would have found an excuse not to come if he had been summoned to the family’s estate. Mycroft had something extremely important to discuss with them, something that would apparently affect the whole family, and he had told his mother how crucial it was for her and Sherlock to be there.

Victoria looked at her two sons and smiled as something close to affection fluttered in her heart. Mycroft, as elegant as ever, seemed nervous, and from the way his mouth twisted, Victoria could tell he was fighting the urge to go back to his childhood habit of chewing on his lower lip. Meanwhile, Sherlock was looking everywhere except at his brother, his fingers drumming on the table while his teacup remained untouched in front of him.

“Well go on then, tell us what we’re doing here,” Victoria said to Mycroft, shaking him out of his deliberation.

Mycroft put his teacup on the table, leaned against the back of his chair, and crossed one very long leg over the other. He paused for a moment, remembering the speech he had prepared for the occasion, and when he felt he had made a dramatic enough effect, he started talking.

“I am now forty-one years old,” he began, ignoring Sherlock’s snort, “and I feel that, career wise, I have accomplished the goals I had set for myself. The position I am in is comfortable, stimulating, empowering, and let’s be honest, extremely lucrative.”

Victoria nodded, and Sherlock continued to look away, his features showing every sign of irritated boredom. The expression was so convincing, Victoria wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he had studied the look in a psychology textbook. When Sherlock rolled his eyes, Mycroft obviously spotted it, but he ignored him in favour of continuing his speech.

“I am now ready for something new in my life—”

“Is this about a new diet, Mycroft?” Sherlock taunted, “Because if it is, I don’t think it was worth disturbing my work.”

Victoria glared at her youngest son, and he fell silent again, but not without expressing his dissatisfaction with a huffing sound. She knew him well enough to know that in exactly 4, 3, 2, 1… and there it was; Sherlock let his head fall back in a way that would be painful decades from now once the years had caught up with him.

“What I’m trying to say is that I feel it is time for me to get married,” Mycroft concluded before picking up his teacup and taking a sip.

Immediately, Victoria’s face lit up with a radiant smile, and her eyes scintillated with joy. She had waited many years for this moment to come, ever since her son, a teenager at the time, had told her that although he wished to find someone to spend his life with, he wished that other person to be a man, and he wanted to wait until he had accomplished his career goals. Mrs Holmes had been disappointed, not by her son’s choice of a same-sex partner, but by the fact that she wouldn’t get to plan a wedding since, at the time, it hadn’t been legal. However, she was glad that Mycroft had decided to follow the tradition and rely on her to find him the perfect life partner.

The Holmeses were one of the old, wealthy families who still valued arranged marriages. Mrs Holmes’ marriage had been arranged by her husband’s mother, whose marriage had also been arranged, and so forth. It was only logical to let the experienced parents choose their children’s partners; the decision was then made based on sound principles and pragmatic criteria, and not clouded by fickle emotions or worse, hormones. The Holmeses didn’t believe in love at first sight; they had seen many proofs that a deep understanding coming from a sensible companionship was a more stable foundation for a relationship than love. The extremely low divorce rate in the family confirmed that belief year after year. Still, once every few generations, there was a rebellious Holmes who decided to get married after experiencing the alleged love at first sight; Mrs Holmes had been relieved as well as happy that Mycroft didn’t plan on being one of the renegades, so she didn’t mind the wait much.

However, passively waiting was not something the Holmeses were adept at. She knew that, statistically, it would be harder to find a male partner for her son than it would have been to find a female one; therefore she had begun her research while Mycroft had been in his early twenties and had just started climbing the government ladder. She had asked around her circle of friends, had had personal files of potential suitors sent from agencies that advertised they could help devoted parents arrange their children’s wedding, and had even visited an extremely exclusive club frequented by homosexual aristocrats, all without success.

Years had passed, and Mrs Holmes had continued keeping an eye open for potential partners. Her enthusiasm had been substantially fuelled when the Civil Partnership Act had been induced, and she could now imagine how beautiful the ceremony would be, with Mycroft standing next to the man she would choose for him. However, every potential candidate had been a disappointment, and she had eventually started cursing her own generation for raising Mycroft’s; the pompous, arrogant gits she had been meeting had had nothing in common with the gentleman her husband had been, and she was determined to find someone just as suitable for Mycroft. When it had become clear that she wouldn't find someone at the top of the social hierarchy, she had turned her attention to the Internet and the dating websites that were supposed to be all the rage.

It was an easy and comfortable way to look for a potential husband; she could do it at home, include very specific search criteria, and the pictures helped eliminate those she knew her son wouldn’t find attractive. Since Mycroft wasn’t ready to settle down with a partner just yet, she devoted only a few hours per month to the search, but by the time Mycroft was thirty-five, she had developed a method.

She limited her search to men who were five years younger or older than Mycroft, who had an adequate career, were non-smokers, whose political views didn’t disagree with Mycroft’s, who weren’t vegetarians, didn’t have children, and spoke English as a first language. Among the years, she had bookmarked a handful of profiles that she occasionally checked to see whether they had been updated or deleted. There were three that she found particularly promising: the first one belonged to a red-headed accountant, the second one looked handsome enough to be a model, but was working in an engineering firm, and the last one – the one she found the most intriguing – belonged to a military doctor with kind blue eyes and a shy smile. John Watson seemed to be everything she was looking for, but he hadn’t logged on to the dating website since his profile had been created.

When the three Holmeses left the Landmark Hotel later that afternoon, Victoria knew the time had come to contact the three potential suitors. The endeavour would most likely take most of her time from now on, and she inwardly thanked the Lord that, for now, Sherlock wasn’t interested in women or men unless they had been brutally murdered. Arranging one wedding would be tiring enough; she couldn’t imagine having to organise two simultaneously. Much planning was indeed involved; she wanted Mycroft to be satisfied with her choice and for the resulting wedding to be perfect.

:::

Chapter 1

Six months after he had tea with his mother and brother, Sherlock found himself in a cab, which wasn’t that unusual. What was unusual was the situation he found himself in. He was heading to the train station, and he was late. Very late. He was supposed to pick up Mycroft’s betrothed, a task that should never have fallen into his hands if it hadn’t been for a series of unfortunate events. Mycroft’s help had been required in the République of Côte d’Ivoire, thus rendering him unable to welcome the man he was supposed to marry.

Mummy would have been the next logical choice, but she had woken up with a migraine, and she had called Sherlock, begging him to greet the no doubt inflated, jingoistic, social climber (Sherlock’s words, not Mummy’s) at the train station. Sherlock had protested vehemently, but his mother was nothing but determined, and Mycroft’s upcoming wedding was so crucial to her that she refused to trust anyone who wasn’t family with the simple task.

The train station was crowded, but even if he had never seen the face of the man he was supposed to pick up, Sherlock knew exactly what he was looking for: a man younger than Mycroft, but older than himself, someone irritated that no one had come for him yet, and anxious, thinking that no one would. After just a few minutes of scanning the crowd, he spotted someone who fitted that description, but something wasn’t right.

His hair was not quite brown, yet not quite blond, with streaks of grey. He was frowning, which made him look tired and older than he probably was, and he had an obvious nervous habit; he licked his lower lip every minute or so. His ears were too large, his mouth was too thin, he had bags under his eyes, and the shadow of a beard was visible on his rough cheeks. He was sitting on a bench, a large suitcase beside him with a hospital-issued cane leaning against it. How could this ordinary handicapped man be Mycroft’s betrothed? Sherlock thought he must have been mistaken, but he very rarely was, so he snickered at the thought of his brother being stuck with an invalid. He wished he had remembered the man’s name; now he had to walk up to him and ask if he was the one supposed to marry his brother. How inconvenient.

The man probably felt observed because he looked up at Sherlock, and for a moment he looked surprised, his eyes widening very slightly. For a long moment, he remained still, taking in Sherlock’s appearance. When their eyes finally met, Sherlock was immediately sure this was the man who would be marrying Mycroft in a month. There was something in those blue eyes that spoke of hidden strength, a willingness to fight—yes, he did look like an army man with his severe haircut and the stiff way he held his shoulders and torso. Then, while Sherlock was still staring, the other man got up, picked up his cane and limped up to him.

“Are you Mycroft?” he asked, and Sherlock cringed at being mistaken for his brother.

“I’m his brother, Sherlock Holmes,” he answered. “You’re the husband.”

“Yes, John Watson,” John answered and he looked relieved, probably because he hadn’t been stood up. He looked younger up-close, Sherlock thought, closer to his own age than Mycroft’s. John extended his hand and Sherlock shook it, noticing how straight John stood and how he didn’t seem to be favouring his uninjured leg. Psychosomatic injury then, that was interesting.

“Come, I have to take you to the family’s estate, but I need to stop somewhere first,” Sherlock said, and he watched as John limped to his suitcase and dragged it with difficulty.

When John was level with him, Sherlock turned to leave the train station, but not before he noticed the RAMC insignia on his suitcase. An army doctor, then. Another interesting discovery. Sherlock was making long strides that John had difficulties following, and when he found a cab, the driver shot him a disapproving look before helping John with his voluminous suitcase. For a moment, Sherlock wondered if John had expected him to carry it, but surely if his limp was psychosomatic he was perfectly able to take care of his luggage.

“Barts,” Sherlock told the cabbie, and they drove off.

John was looking out the window, but he often shot glances at Sherlock who was trying to concentrate on his BlackBerry, and was finding it harder than usual with John’s eyes on him.

“Ok, you’ve got questions,” Sherlock said in what he hoped was an invitation for John to talk.

“Yeah, actually I do. Where are we going?”

“Barts, obviously. You heard me tell the cabbie,” Sherlock answered curtly.

“What for?”

“I left my riding crop in the mortuary,” Sherlock answered casually, and John gaped at him.

“I’m torn between asking why you have a riding crop, what you were doing in a mortuary, and why you would ever need a riding crop in there.”

“Considering traffic, we’re ten minutes away. If you do it quickly you have time to ask all three of your questions.”

“No, I’ll just….” John trailed off, blushing ever so slightly. “What were you doing with a riding crop in the mortuary?” he finally asked.

“There was a case,” Sherlock answered. “I solved it by discovering the bruises on the man’s body had been made post mortem, but I needed to experiment in order to prove it.”

“A case?” John asked. “Do you work for Scotland Yard?”

“I don’t!” Sherlock said, mildly offended. “I’m a consulting detective, the police contact me when they are out of their depth.”

“Does that happen often?”

Sherlock snorted, but smiled at John.

“You have no idea.”

For the rest of the journey, John asked questions about the case, and every time Sherlock described a reasoning process that had led him to finding some answers, John’s eyes lit up. After John’s third exclamation – brilliant, fantastic, and another brilliant – Sherlock gave in to the smile pulling at the corner of his lips, and when they got out of the cab to enter Barts, there was a preening bounce in Sherlock’s steps.

In the morgue, Molly also glared at Sherlock when she noticed that John was carrying his suitcase by himself. He ignored her and quickly retrieved his forgotten riding crop, but as he was about to leave, a corpse caught his eyes and he approached, John curiously following. Sherlock then proceeded to tell his companion everything he could deduce about the dead woman’s life. He didn’t know where it was coming from, this desire to show off his observation abilities, but when John exclaimed that he was brilliant, it felt like getting a hit of something he didn’t know he had been craving. He wanted more, preferably now, so he moved on to the next corpse despite Molly’s protests, and he spent the next hour analysing every body in the morgue, impressing John by making deductions and pointing out what had led to his reasoning.

When they got out, the sun was setting, and Sherlock knew he was supposed to hail a cab and bring John to his mother’s house, but, strangely, he didn’t want to. There was something about John that puzzled him, something about him that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, and he hated letting go of a puzzle before he could solve it. Also, he had enjoyed John’s company throughout the afternoon, and he was reluctant to see him go, so instead of doing what was expected of him, he acted on impulse and asked John whether he was hungry.

“Starving,” he answered.

So Sherlock hailed a cab, and he asked to be dropped off not too far from his flat in front of a small and cosy Italian restaurant, Angelo’s. They were led to a booth close to the window, and they sat in somewhat awkward silence until they were brought menus.

“You should have the lasagne,” Sherlock suggested, and John looked up, one eyebrow raised questioningly.

“Can you really deduce that I’m in the mood for lasagne?” he asked, disbelieving.

“No, of course I can’t, but the lasagne is really good,” Sherlock answered, and John’s laugh filled their booth.

Even if Sherlock had heard him laugh several times already, it was always a surprise. Just the fact that Sherlock could make someone laugh was unusual; plenty had laughed at him along the years, but this was different. Also, John’s laugh was just a bit too high, but it had the intriguing effect of making Sherlock feel a few degrees warmer every time he heard it.

“What you did today, it was extraordinary,” John said, and Sherlock once again felt something warm spread from his chest to his fingers, but he shrugged it off, trying to appear unruffled.

“It’s what I do, it’s my job. I could do the same to you, if you want,” he suggested because there were many things he had observed about John that he wanted to confirm.

“Your mother probably told you everything she knows about me, so it wouldn’t be as impressive. You wouldn’t believe the number of questions she asked, but I think I understand; she doesn’t want her son to marry a serial killer,” John said with a small smile, clearly amused by the memory.

Up until that moment, John hadn’t brought up the issue of the wedding. He hadn’t asked where his future husband was, he hadn’t mentioned the upcoming engagement party, and he hadn’t complained when Sherlock had dragged him into a morgue instead of taking him to his mother’s house. Upon realising this, Sherlock was pleasantly surprised, and he found he didn’t want to discuss the upcoming wedding either. In fact, he wanted nothing more than to ignore it until he could figure out what was so unusual about the common man sitting in front of him.

“I have heard nothing about you,” he told John. “My brother and I are not close, and I have very little interest in his wedding.”

“Oh,” John said and he lowered his eyes to look at the toothpicks in the middle of their table.

That was strange. He had been smiling a few seconds before, and now he was frowning. For a moment, Sherlock wondered what had caused the sudden change, but when he realised that John probably thought Sherlock had no interest in him, he wanted to kick himself.

“We could make it a game,” Sherlock suggested, “for everything I get right about you, I’ll tell you something about myself.”

“All right, but what if you guess wrong?” John asked, his curiosity piqued.

“I never guess,” Sherlock said, “but if I’m wrong, you tell me what I missed, and you may call me an idiot, something very few people get to do.”

At that moment, a grinning Angelo approached their booth. He was winding between tables with the natural grace of someone who had been walking around while carrying extra weight for many years. His mother had obviously been one of those people who serves their children ridiculously large portions of exceedingly rich food and expect them to finish everything on their plates. Upon seeing that Sherlock wasn’t alone, his smile grew even wider, and he straightened his tie, determined to make a good impression.

“Sherlock!” Angelo exclaimed. “How good to see you again, it’s been a while! You have no idea how happy you are making me, for all those years I’ve been telling you to bring a date, and you finally do! I’ll bring a candle, it’ll be more romantic,” he said, and he left so quickly neither John nor Sherlock had enough time to object.

John seemed uncomfortable, and it didn’t take long before Sherlock deduced why.

“Don’t worry about it, Angelo has been pestering me about bringing a date for years, and he got a little overexcited when he thought we were together, that’s all,” Sherlock said, making his voice as relaxed as possible. The last thing he wanted was to spend the rest of the dinner in awkward silence because John thought Sherlock was trying to seduce him.

“So you’re— He thinks….” John said, clearly uncomfortable with whatever he wanted to ask. Sherlock raised an eyebrow and leaned forward a little, urging him to continue.

“He knows you, err, date men, then?” John finally asked.

“I had to tell him, he kept trying to set me up with women. I don’t date, though, ever. I find the whole courtship ordeal extremely tedious,” Sherlock answered, hoping to close the subject.

His sexual orientation and his dating habits weren’t something he liked to discuss. Yet, it wasn’t as bad as usual with John. He was marrying his brother; therefore, he couldn’t be homophobic, or think Sherlock was coming on to him.

At that moment, Angelo returned with a candle, and he took their orders – lasagne for both of them and a bottle of red wine – which put an end to what could have been an uncomfortable silence. While waiting for their meal, John suggested they played Sherlock’s deducing game, and Sherlock got ready by adopting his favourite thinking position.

He took his time, attentively looking at John in order not to miss anything. He wanted to be right, but he wanted to deduce things that would take John’s breath away and make him think Sherlock was brilliant. If he deduced particularly surprising things, perhaps John would feel the need to praise him out loud, to call him brilliant or fantastic again. When he was ready, he started with the easier things.

He correctly deduced that John had studied medicine at Barts from his familiarity with the hospital’s corridors; he hadn’t only followed Sherlock, he had obviously known his way around the place. In exchange, John learned that Sherlock could play the violin, and that doing so helped him think, which explained why he tended to perform at all hours of the day or night. When John asked whether he was any good, Sherlock just scoffed and moved to his second deduction.

The RAMC logo on John’s suitcase, the strict haircut, the way he held himself, and the slightly upward tilt in his chin were all screaming that John had been in the army. It was such an easy conclusion to reach that Sherlock only gave away one of his food preference in exchange: Punjabi cuisine in general, Curry Chicken in particular. Next, he said that John had been invalided home from either Afghanistan or Iraq after sustaining an injury to the upper left side of his torso. It had been easy to put two and two together after observing John’s tan pattern and the stiffness in his left shoulder when he made certain movements. John confirmed that he had been in Afghanistan and that he had been shot in the left shoulder, but he declared that this actually counted as two deductions and he pestered Sherlock until he gave in and told him two things about himself. Hiding his smile behind his best annoyed expression, Sherlock told John that he had solved his first case at the age of seven (by finding his neighbour’s missing cat) and that he had studied chemistry in uni.

Still working on what he could infer from John’s appearance, Sherlock announced that John had broken his nose once while playing either rugby or football. John confirmed that it had happened during a rugby match, and Sherlock who was enjoying the odd quid pro quo even more than he had thought he would, remained on the subject of injury for his next declaration. He told John he had sustained a total of six concussions, three of them caused by someone hitting him over the head with something extremely heavy. It was a reflex for John, a doctor, to flinch at the revelation, but Sherlock assured him that he was still much smarter than most people, and John had to laugh. Sherlock felt the not uncommon flicker of pride in his chest; he had made John laugh again.

Next, Sherlock deduced that John's mother had died from a degenerative neurological disorder around seven years ago. When John, clearly impressed, asked how he had known, Sherlock explained that John’s jumper was around ten years old and that it had been hand-knitted by someone experiencing tremors and weakness in their fingers. The fact that John had decided to keep it all these years, and that he was wearing it on such an important day suggested a profound, sentimental attachment. John confirmed that it was the last jumper his mother had knitted before amyotrophic lateral sclerosis had rendered her unable to handle needles.

Sherlock wasn’t entirely clueless when emotions were concerned. He knew some people grieved for an unusually long time following the death of a loved one, and he knew it was proper to offer his sympathy when someone was in mourning. He could tell John wasn’t mourning, per se, but there was a distant sadness in his eyes as he spoke of his mother’s distress when she had realised she couldn’t knit anymore. In an attempt to provide some sort of comfort, Sherlock tried to remember Lestrade’s expression when he was talking to spouses of murder victims. He took that expression, dialled it down a little (John’s mother had been dead for seven years, certainly John’s grief had lessened over time), and he tried to apply it to his own face.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said and, surprisingly, John burst out laughing while Sherlock was watching him with a very real puzzled expression.

“What?” he asked.

“Have you seen your face?” John asked between fits of giggles.

His whole chest was shaking, he had a hand over his heart, and he was taking deep quivery breaths to regain a little composure, but his efforts were fruitless. Every time he looked up to glance at Sherlock, a new wave of laughter took hold of him, and Sherlock was watching him, not only puzzled, but also concerned and a little amused.

“What?” Sherlock repeated.

“Your face!” John wheezed, and Sherlock rolled his eyes.

“Yes, I know, you said that already. No, I haven’t seen my face; there aren’t any mirrors around us,” he said, making John giggle some more, which delayed his answer again.

“That face you made, it looked like something you would see if you ever Googled ‘sympathetic expression’. It had no sincerity at all in it,” John explained, traces of laughter still dancing on his features.

To say Sherlock was stunned would have been an understatement. His fake facial expressions had never fooled Mycroft or Mummy, but Lestrade fell for them every time, so did the strangers he had to interact with. Yet, there was John Watson, barely off the train and into his life, who seemed in serious danger of unhinging his jaw from laughing too hard. How bizarre and intriguing.

“I’m sorry Sherlock, but you looked insane!” John chuckled, and Sherlock joined in briefly until Angelo brought them glasses and a bottle of wine. He put everything on the table and leaned towards the two other men as if to share a secret.

“I brought you one of my best bottles,” he whispered, gesturing at the wine, “some occasions are worth celebrating,” he added and, with a wink, he was gone.

“I’m not his date!” John cried after him, but either Angelo didn’t hear or he didn’t care.

Sherlock poured them each a glass of wine, and for a while, they drank in silence, enjoying the smooth and velvety taste of the crimson liquid. Soon after, Angelo brought them two heaping plates of lasagne. John attacked his meal with the gusto of a starving man while Sherlock watched, fascinated, as he took small bites of cheese.

“So, is that all you could deduce?” John asked after swallowing a ridiculously large mouthful. He had a smidgen of tomato sauce on the corner of his lips, and the tip of his tongue timidly darted out to lick it off.

“For now, yes,” Sherlock answered. “Hand me your watch or your phone and I’ll tell you more.”

John took his phone out of his pocket and carefully handed it to Sherlock, who took hold of it as carelessly as if it had been a pair of socks. Even if he was absorbed in his observation of the small device, Sherlock noticed how John cringed, and he smiled as pieces of the puzzle assembled themselves. The scratches and dents were like pages in an open book, flipping and begging him to unravel their secrets. Looking up at John, he slid a finger across the back of the mobile phone, over the engraving.

“The phone wasn’t originally yours; it was your brother’s. It’s easy to tell from his name, Harry Watson, engraved on the back of the phone. It can’t be your father or a cousin; this is a young man’s gadget and the high cost means very close relative. The way you handle it, one would believe you are handling priceless porcelain, but the phone, despite being no older than six months old, is full of cracks and dents. Someone handling it as carefully as you do would not have a six months old phone looking like this. Then, of course, there’s the engraving: From Clara with three kisses, sign of a romantic involvement. The cost of the device means Clara is his wife, not girlfriend, but why is he getting rid of it already? Their marriage was in trouble, and he left her; otherwise he would have kept the phone. Why did they split up? That’s a shot in the dark, but I suppose they didn’t agree on what ‘drinking too much’ means.”

“How can you possibly know about the drinking?” John asked, gobsmacked. Sherlock smiled, turning the phone over so he could show John the power connection.

“Do you see the scuffmarks here? His hands shook so much when he plugged it in that he missed a few times before finally succeeding. You won’t see those marks on a sober man’s phone, but they’re always present on an alcoholic’s.”

“That. Was amazing,” John said, a forgotten piece of lasagne on his fork hovering halfway between his plate and his mouth.

“You think so?” Sherlock asked, overwhelmed by the swelling feeling of pride. He could almost imagine it leaking out of his every pore.

“Of course! It was extraordinary, it was quite…extraordinary,” John said, and he was startled by the untouched piece of lasagne falling off his fork and into his half-empty plate with a loud ‘plop’. A little bemused, he stabbed the four layers of pasta with his fork and brought it to his mouth.

“Was I wrong about anything?” Sherlock asked.

“You were,” John answered, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Idiot,” he added as an afterthought, remembering the original rules of their little deducing game.

Sherlock furrowed his brows, the deductions he had just made about John running through his head. How could he be wrong? The new phone with so many scratches, the shaking hands plugging it in every night, the engraving, the breakup…. Perhaps John’s brother wasn’t an alcoholic; maybe he had inherited his mother’s disease, but that didn’t make sense.

“What is it?” he asked, and John smiled, swallowing his mouthful of pasta before answering the question. Partly because it was polite to do so, but mostly because it was fun to keep Sherlock waiting.

“Harry is my sister. It’s short for Harriet,” he said, and Sherlock winced as if he had been hit with an extremely heavy object, and was about to sustain his seventh concussion.

“Your sister!” he exclaimed before groaning and burying his face in his hands. “Sister! I always miss something, but it’s rarely as plebeian as falling for a stereotypical gender issue.”

“It was still brilliant,” John said, “and it counts as two things you got right. Also, you owe me one revelation for correctly deducing that my mother died of a degenerative disease.”

Sherlock looked up from behind his hands and thought for a moment, wondering what he could tell John. John who, despite having met him only a few hours before, already knew more about him than most people. Since he had deduced something significant about John’s family, he decided to open up a little about his own, but he stayed far away from the subject of his relationship with Mycroft.

“My father left my mother twenty years ago and I haven’t seen him since, when I was younger my only ambition was to retire to the country and keep bees, and I have a birthmark on my inguinal ligament shaped like a—”

He was interrupted by John’s loud cough as he choked on his lasagne, and the beeping sound announcing the arrival of a new text message. He dug the device out of his jacket pocket and glared at the screen. The message was from Mycroft.

Why isn’t John at Mummy’s house? What have you done with him?

I haven’t done anything, he’ll be with Mummy tomorrow.

He better be
.

Sherlock fought the childish urge to stick his tongue out at his BlackBerry; instead, he turned to John who was taking his wallet out of his back pocket, his face still red as he fought the last traces of his coughing fit.

“You don’t need it here, Angelo owes me a favour, and he repays me in Italian food. Now, we could take a cab to my mother’s house, but it’s an hour and a half from here, and you’ve been yawning for the last fifteen minutes. If you want, you can spend the night in my flat,” Sherlock said, perfectly aware that the proposal was superfluous. John was clearly exhausted; his cheeks were red from the wine, and he looked like a man ready to fall asleep at the first occasion.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose—” John started, but Sherlock cut him off.

“It’s no bother at all. I have a spare bedroom, and I can make sure my mother knows you will be there tomorrow.”

“I’m gonna take you up on that offer, then. I’m knackered,” John said, and together they left the restaurant.

That time, when John picked up his suitcase, Sherlock genuinely observed. John’s shoulders remained straight as he pulled on the handle. His jaw was clenched, and he had a determined look in his eyes. It couldn’t have been more evident: for John, a proud man, it was necessary to carry his luggage by himself, no matter how difficult the task was. It was a way to fight his stubborn leg, to show the world – and himself – that he wasn’t an invalid. During the few minutes it took them to return to Baker Street, Sherlock wondered if there was a way to rid John of his psychosomatic limp.

When they reached Sherlock’s flat, it took some time but John managed to haul his suitcase all the way upstairs. When Sherlock opened the door to 221B, there was a shyness in his movements brought on by the fact that he didn’t often bring people back here. John looked around for a while, chuckling when he saw the skull on the mantle, and he sat in an armchair with a long sigh. He did look tired, Sherlock thought, and he was reminded of his mother saying it was kind to offer upset guests a cup of tea. For a few seconds, he wondered if tired counted as upset, and if he even had some tea, but Mrs Hudson interrupted his thoughts when she sneaked into the kitchen.

“Sherlock! There is a man here with you!” she whispered, and Sherlock turned around to make sure John hadn’t heard.

“Yes Mrs Hudson, he’s one of my brother’s friends.”

“Your brother playing matchmaker, how charming of him!” she said, and she looked as excited as a little girl on Christmas morning.

“He positively is not,” he replied quietly, but then he spotted the two striped mugs and biscuits she had put on a tray. For once, he was grateful for his landlady’s total inability to stay out of other people’s business, especially when she believed there was romance involved.

“I know you, it’s very unlikely you’ve got tea, so take this and be nice to him. Also, don’t worry about being loud, I sleep very soundly when I take my herbal soothers,” she said, and she winked before turning to leave.

Sherlock found her behaviour strange and confusing, but he didn’t linger on her words, and he brought the tray back into the living room. John accepted the mug, his eyes closing in obvious pleasure when he took a sip of the hot beverage. Sherlock smiled contently when he took the seat across from John’s. Maybe having a guest over wasn’t that dreadful; John seemed quite happy to be here and, if he was honest, Sherlock had to admit it was pleasant to have him in his flat.

When thinking about the fact that his companion had to leave the next day, something unpleasant and slightly territorial churned in Sherlock’s stomach. It seemed moot for John to leave for his mother’s house if Mycroft wasn’t even there; surely he would have a better time staying here with Sherlock than alone with his mother in her ridiculously large house. Yet, he couldn’t just ask John to stay for no apparent reason. He needed something to make him stay, something that would pique his interest. He had seemed fascinated by Sherlock’s tales of crime scenes and murders; if only there was a case, perhaps he could manipulate John into staying a little longer. Sherlock probably didn’t need much longer, just long enough to solve the mystery that was John Watson.

I need a case. An interesting one, he texted Lestrade.

The response was quick to arrive; after five years of knowing Sherlock, Lestrade was perfectly aware that he would be harassed incessantly if he didn’t send an answer right away.

I haven’t got any interesting cases.

I’ll make it interesting then, I need a case.

Sherlock, I can’t murder someone for your amusement.

Text me as soon as someone commits a crime, any kind of crime.


Sherlock pressed his joined index fingers against his lips and sighed; he needed to solve the enigma that was John Watson. He needed a case.

:::

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Ellie L.

December 2012

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