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June 10, 2016 7:36 am  #1

Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Hello everyone, welcome again to the Marvellous Midyear Fic Exchange for 2016.

This thread is where I will be posting all the fics that were written for this exchange.
Please do not comment on them here, but do use our other thread

Remember, this thread is for the fics and any related pics only

I will start posting stories written by our participants on June 20, and there will be a gap of a day or two between posts to give everyone time to read and comment on each fic.





June 10, 2016 7:42 am  #2

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

For now I have a little treat for you all.

My 9 year old wanted to write a little Sherlock fanfic, so I gave her the prompt of "Summer" and away she went. I loved her story so much, that I had to illustrate it (see end). So here it is...

An Embarrassment At Baker Street

“John, be a little more happy, it is the hottest day of the year, how else will we cool down?” said Sherlock, stepping into the chilly water.

“Yay!” said John sarcastically. “I am sitting outside Speedy’s in a baby’s paddling pool.”

John was starting to think that Sherlock had gone crazy. Lost his mind. Everyone was standing around laughing and gaping at his paddling pool. It was actually Mrs Hudson’s, but she was at the window, looking down at the boys and chuckling to herself.

Mr Chatterjee was standing nearby with a big smile on his face. This was because all the bystanders were buying cups of coffee from his cafe.

Nee-Nor! A police car was coming up the street, lights flashing. It pulled up in front of 221B. D.I. Greg Lestrade and Sergeant Sally Donovan stepped out.

“Sherlock, what do you think you are you doing?”

“Shut up Gilbert, I’m thinking,” Sherlock said to Lestrade.

“Hey, freak! Forgot your rubber ducks.” Sally threw some at Sherlock and smirked.

“Alright, that’s it, I’m going inside.” John got up and walked into the flat.

Sherlock yelled after him, “John, I agreed to the deal! No heads in the fridge for two weeks if you stay!”

John slammed the door shut. Sherlock was losing his mind, he thought. He was crazy. Why was he even doing this? There was nothing you could do about Sherlock.

Lestrade tried again. “Sherlock, this is a public street! You can’t do this, you are causing a disturbance!” He pointed at all the people filming videos for YouTube.

“Gilbert, shut up, I’m thinking!” Sherlock repeated.

Lestrade sighed. “About what?”

“About how to steal Mycroft’s umbrella!”

Lestrade gave up and got into the police car, shaking his head. Sally followed. Sherlock ignored them and pressed his fingertips together under his chin.

A black car pulled up in front of Speedy’s. Mycroft got out and walked up to him.

“Brother of mine, you are embarrassing the whole Holmes family.” He stood leaning on his umbrella, amusement and disapproval upon his face.

“Mycroft,” said Sherlock in a bored voice. “Why do you have your umbrella on a sunny summer's day? Do you have something hidden inside it? Go away. YOU are the one who is causing an embarrassment.” He sloshed some water on to the ground where Mycroft was standing.

Mycroft stepped back quickly to avoid his shoes getting wet. He slipped and fell over. Sherlock at once jumped out of the pool, grabbed the umbrella and ran dripping inside 221B holding it above his head triumphantly.

“John, it’s Christmas!”

Please leave any kudos and comments here 

Last edited by ukaunz (June 10, 2016 9:59 am)


     Thread Starter

June 20, 2016 3:58 am  #3

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Here's our first fic, please comment here when you've read it
(Language warning for those who are sensitive to such things)

This story is for Lilythiell. You gave me some lovely prompts some of which (hopefully) have found their way into the fic. 
But it was your last sentence that really inspired me. Having read it, the outline of the story was there at once. Please let me quote you: 
"It’s a starry, starry night."

Starry Night, Oil on Canvas, June 1889

There had been a time when he thought that love was a sentiment found on the losing side. Actually, he thinks so still. The difference being that now it hurts whereas then it was nothing but hard fact, no feelings attached. He has come a long way since the woman who now and then still ghosts through his mind palace, reminding him of the day he realised that John might feel something for him but would never give in to it. A dim, wet factory, cold steel and concrete, half broken down, and the voices of two people, one male, one female, sounding clearly through the empty, ghostlike shell of a building. 

From his window he can see the undulating landscape, the incredible, larger-than-life hues of colour - sprawling fields of blooming lavender (lilac, John), rusty red earth, green foliage, a sky so blue that it hurts the eyes. No wonder so many painters felt drawn to this part of France. Summer, not really the right time for Provence, too hot, and he has always disliked heat, but this is the only place he can bear to be. 

He remembers childhood summers with Grandmère Vernet who was the best cook he ever met and the worst painter he ever saw. But her passion made up for any lack of skill. 

The house stands on the outskirts of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. As a boy, he used to accompany Grandmère to the market where she chose the finest fruit and vegetables, the tastiest cheese and juiciest meat and never ever let herself be outsmarted by the traders. As far as he knows, she never set foot into a supermarket in all her life. 

He presses his lips together and walks away from the window, softly touching his left arm. It is strange how an ordinary word like supermarket can trigger memories - coffee tea sugar milk dried pasta tomato sauce peas beans steps on the stairs the creaking door the polythene smell of bags placed on the kitchen table with a thud the fridge door opening a soft curse no fucking space for food next time I …

But there will be no next time. Maybe never again.

‘Sherlock.’ Mycroft looks at him over his reading glasses which have wandered down his considerable nose, dangling precariously from the very tip of it. ‘Saint-Rémy? Are you sure?’

‘I thought you would be happy to see me spend time away from big cities and their numerous chemical temptations.’ He tries for lightness and fails miserably. 

‘I think you want to spend time away from John Watson,’ says Mycroft. There is something in his voice which in other people you would call compassion. But he is not other people and does not go in for this sort of thing. 

‘John has made it very clear that he does not wish to see me.’ Sherlock prefers to look out of the window. Mycroft sees too much, always has. ‘There are only so many times you can hear that and not believe it.’

He can feel the silence in his back like an actual touch. He still does not turn around. ‘What?’

‘There are only so many times you can risk your life for John Watson and survive.’

He finally moves, just a half-turn, a quick look over his shoulder at his brother. Mycroft’s face does not give away anything but Sherlock knows him well enough. His Adam’s apple is moving with an effort as if trying to gulp down some foul-tasting food. 

‘John once told me I was a drama queen. I beg to differ. He should see you.’

‘Oh, come on, Sherlock, this game is over. I know a lost battle when I see it and I lost the battle to protect you from your own feelings years ago. But I am not going to lose you.’

‘You won’t.’ Sherlock slightly raises his left arm. ‘I am clean. For good.’

‘And yet you want to go to Southern France, to a house you have not visited since you were a boy, to do what? Bury yourself in old cases? Get away from London’s dealers? Drown in honey and lavender?’

The last remark stings. It is what Grandmère Vernet used to say when they were lazing around in the sunlit garden instead of helping her with the dishes. But she is not there anymore. Just like …

Sherlock finally gives in. ‘For once in my life I want to get away from here.’ His gesture encompasses the living room in Baker Street or London as a whole. ‘Last time it was hard.’ They both know he is talking about a rainy day on a rooftop and a tiny speck of a man down on the pavement. ‘Because there was so much I left behind. But now …’

Sherlock tries to concentrate on the pile of old cases, stacked-up folders and cardboard boxes Lestrade had carried up the seventeen stairs to 221B and which he has brought here in a rented Citroën. Some are from the 1920s, exuding traces of Shalimar and sweaty jazz and the tinkling of crystal chandeliers. There is one unsolved chain of murders from the long Edwardian summer before 1914 and even a child kidnapping which took place in 1853. Nothing manages to hold his attention. 

There is a hollow feeling, right in the middle of his chest - a large cavity as he once dreamed of saying about his brother - and he knows what he is missing. Not his heart which is here, in the correct place, beating its rhythm. And yet … 

He goes into the kitchen and gets himself a slice of watermelon. Not that it will make the hollow feeling disappear but any action is better than sitting around, an open folder in his lap, staring blindly into the distance in the rough direction of London. 

He eats the dripping melon contemplatively over the sink, enjoying the sweet, slightly watery taste. Afterwards he washes his hands, dries them on a towel. 

A plane drones overhead, on its way to or from Marseilles airport. His throat tightens and he has to drink a glass of water to dispel the feeling.

He has never entertained any nostalgic or sentimental feelings about airports but recently these little drab airfields with their makeshift towers and tarmac half overgrown by weeds seem to have become an integral part of his life. 

It is like a distorted scene from a mirror, similar but not the same. Similar but not the same as in January when it was he who boarded the plane and John, Mary, and Mycroft who remained behind. This time it will be Mary who is boarding the plane, child in her arms, not looking back, just as he did then. 

Mycroft looms as a dark presence in the background, watching over the scene and making sure she leaves England for good. 

Sherlock steps back from the group, nodding sharply towards Mary, stretching his hand to touch a soft downy cheek but pulling it back in time. He turns around and goes back to the car to give them some privacy. Seconds later he can hear steps approaching, someone lighting a cigarette and holding it in front of his face. 

Sherlock takes it without looking up. 

‘Nothing new under the sun, Sherlock.’

‘Oh, but I hope so. No video this time. No return after five minutes.’

‘Don’t worry. Once was fine. Twice would seem careless.’ There is a pause. ‘When did he decide?’

Sherlock shrugs. ‘He told me this morning.’

John has known about this offer for a week. Seven days, twenty-four hours, one thousand four hundred and forty minutes, eight hundred sixty-four thousand seconds … Sherlock tells himself to stop, to pull back from the abyss that is his own exhausting inexhaustible brain. 

‘Better late than never.’ He would like to smash in Mycroft’s teeth but has to concede that sometimes his brother is just right. 

The next thing he can hear is the plane door closing, the gangway being pulled away, the engines starting. He does not turn around because he is afraid. Afraid of seeing John’s defeated posture, his twitching hand, his head following the plane carrying away his wife and daughter towards an unknown future in a new country with a new name. A future without him.

In the afternoon Sherlock walks the short distance into town, mainly to distract himself but also to buy some food. Now that he is living alone again he puts more attention to feeding himself because he must. It seems he cannot shed his inner Doctor. 

He enters Saint-Rémy through the old Porte du Trou in the north and walks along Rue Nostradamus. Grandmère used to tell him about the prophet and his predictions but he has never understood how people still can give any credit to this nonsense. But he fondly remembers warm evenings in the garden, the scent of oleander and lavender, crickets chirping, Grandmère’s brittle voice telling him about Michel de Nostredame who was not just a prophet but also an apothecary and a doctor and an astrologer. Maybe this has somehow taken root in him and has directed his own penchant for chemistry, nudging him from early on towards a science that once was connected with the ancient traditions of alchemy. 

It is strange what a place can do to the mind. He gets calmer by the minute just by walking through the quiet streets until he reaches Place Jules Pelissier with its light golden buildings and shady plane trees and its dolphin fountain. The dolphins’ tails are intertwined, eternally connected. 

The thought somehow brings back his earlier sadness. Sherlock tries to distract himself by entering a bakery, buying a small ficelle and two pains au chocolat. He discovers small jars of local honey on a shelf and takes one of them as well. 

On leaving the bakery he turns to the right and nearly stumbles over a blackboard someone has inconveniently placed in the middle of the pavement. 

Delicate chalk letters announce that a new gallery has been opened. One is cordially invited to enter and look around. 

Sherlock has never really been interested in art but anything will do to cover up the sadness which no amount of warmth and sun and sweet-smelling summer has been able to dispel. He looks into the window and nearly drops the paper bag full of bakery goods he has been holding in his right. 

He knows the name of the artist - stored away somewhere in his mind palace for research purposes. Not an original, what a ludicrous idea, but a very good reproduction. His forehead nearly touches the windowpane and he cannot stop looking. And then the golden stones of Saint-Rémy seem to drift away, the sunlight disappears, making way for a night sky spanning over a big city far away from here.

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’

‘I thought you didn’t care about things like that.’

‘Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.’

So long ago but the moment has stayed in his mind. During his absence as he prefers to call those unspeakable years far from Baker Street he often looked up to the sky and whenever there were stars he remembered the time he gave away something of himself and John did not understand. 

It may have been the first but it surely was not the last time. It has always been like that.

He flinches from the soft female voice that suddenly sounds very close to him. ‘Starry Night, oil on canvas, 1889. I am sure you know it.’ She speaks good English with a French accent. 

He shakes himself out of his reverie. She is petite, geometrically cut dark hair with a fringe, wearing a frilly white summer dress strangely at odds with her 1950s existentialist hairstyle and yet she looks stunning. 

Oh, the van Gogh, yes.’ He clears his throat. ‘I am not very familiar with his work. Not at all, to be honest. I … this just reminded me of someone, something.’ To his eternal embarrassment he finds himself blushing. 

Her look is impenetrable but friendly. ‘May I offer you a cup of coffee? It is only my second day here and I am glad about every customer. Which does not mean you have to buy anything, no pressure.’

He follows her into the gallery. It is light and airy, unpolished floorboards, white walls, nothing to distract from the paintings. 

‘Most of them are by local artists. Provence is still a Mecca for artists, there must be something in the air and the light that draws them here.’ She walks over to the left wall by the window. ‘My personal van Gogh corner. He is so ubiquitous by now. This is the problem with things you see to often - you stop appreciating their beauty.’ She points to the painting of the nighty sky. ‘Did you know it was painted here?’

Sherlock shakes his head. ‘I had no idea.’

‘It is the sight from his window in the asylum here in Saint-Rémy. He painted it in June 1889.’ She takes the picture from the window, leaning it against a chair. ‘It is not what his eyes saw when he was looking out. This is a village of his mind. But to him the sky might have looked like that. There are dozens of interpretations, people talking about the religious aspects or the fact that it seems to precipitate something called the Kolmogorov theory of turbulences but …’

‘I’ll take it.’

She looks baffled. 

‘Sorry, but I am not really interested in religion or turbulence theories.’ He realises his words might sound a bit rude. ‘There are things one appreciates without caring about them in general. What is the price?’

Now it is her turn to blush. Sherlock belatedly deduces her. Former art student, left Paris for personal reasons, trying to make a living as a gallery owner but still shy about the financial transactions involved. She is unsure of naming the price because she thinks he will find it too high and will start to bargain which she finds utterly dreadful. 

He looks at the back of the canvas. 350 Euros. ‘Do you take credit cards? Or I could pop into the bank and get the cash.’

‘No, a credit card is fine. I shall wrap it for you, just a moment.’ She starts digging behind the counter, bringing corrugated board and tissue paper, carefully wrapping the canvas and tying a purple cord around the package. 

‘Oh, I forgot to tell you - this reprint is exactly the same size as the original painting from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.’

Sherlock hands her his credit card and the deal is done. 

‘My name is Juliette. And I completely forgot about the coffee, so sorry. If there is time …’ She nods over to the coffee maker behind her. 

‘No, thank you, perhaps another day.’ He is suddenly very anxious to take his picture home. So he clamps the package under one arm which is a bit awkward because of its size, grabs his paper bag, says goodbye and leaves. He does not even notice that he did not introduce himself to Juliette.

‘Mycroft just called.’

He is afraid of telling John, of leaving it up to him to choose but of course he knows that this is the only way. No secrecy anymore, no dealings behind John’s back. He has to trust John. If he has learned one thing about love by now then it is this: love means letting the other one choose. Not directing or controlling or influencing the one you love but letting him choose - even if he does not choose you. And still. 

‘He can get her into a witness protection scheme. Against full disclosure of all she knows. And then a new life, a new name, a new identity.’

John’s face seems to do several things at once. When he has himself under control again, he asks: ‘Just her?’

Sherlock shakes his head, takes a deep breath. ‘Her, her and the baby, or all three of you. Whatever you choose. You have one week to decide.’ 

When John does not answer, Sherlock turns to leave the room. ‘I will be at Barts if you need me.’

He takes his scarf and coat, anxious for John to say something - I need you please stay do not let me do this alone not this time - but John remains silent. Sherlock half remembers his own answer from years ago. ‘Why would I need you?’ What a blind idiot he has been. 

He softly closes the door behind himself and walks down the seventeen steps.

Back in the house he props the package against the living room wall, makes coffee and puts the pains au chocolat on a plate. Grandmère’s old porcelain with the faded fleur de lys. Very French. 

He slowly eats both pains, drinks two cups of coffee. He looks at the old calendar on the wall. 1989, the year Grandmère died. Nobody has taken it down, freezing time within the house forever. But it does not feel odd or uncomfortable to stay in a house in which it will be always 1989. He does not mind these things. 

What he does mind is that he has been here for ten days. Ten days since Mary entered the plane with her daughter in her arms. Ten days since he told Mycroft he was going to Saint-Rémy. Ten days without a call or a text or any message from John. He had given himself two weeks before returning to London and starting to work again. By now he feels more like staying here the whole summer. Or even into autumn. Autumn is a lovely time in Southern France. 

Drowning in honey and lavender. Slightly sticky but a nice way to go. SH.

Mycroft’s answer comes immediately. Still the drama queen, little brother?

With the merest hint of a smile he puts away the phone, washes his hands and starts to unwrap the package. The canvas has been carefully fixed to a wooden frame so the picture really does not need a conventional frame. He gets the toolbox, measures the distance between two spots, applies a mechanic’s level, chooses two sturdy nails, and starts hammering them into the whitewashed wall. 

When all is ready, he walks back as far as possible and considers his work. He is satisfied. And when the setting sun slants through the window, tinting the sky blue and golden, he feels even more than satisfied. 

Sherlock wakes up in the middle of the night. He is not sure why. He lies very still, concentrating on any sound other than the chirping outside his window. He gets up and drinks some water from the kitchen tap. Now that he is awake he feels the heat, pouring from the walls, enveloping him and making his body hot and clammy. He walks into the living room. 

A pale, slightly bluish moon is shining through the window, bathing the picture in an eerie light. So very different from the golden sunlight. For a second he allows himself to imagine this light on John’s body.

There has been an accident. John’s voice is higher than usual, slightly shrill with fear and panic. Mary was driving and the brakes did not seem to work. John was not in the car, just Mary and the baby. A broken wrist, no harm to the child. 

Sherlock ends the call. He knows what his next move will be. 

‘I hope Doctor Watson is in good health?’

‘Come on, you know he is. But what about the accident? Malfunction of brakes in a three-year-old Audi, my ass.’

‘Your unusual rudeness is far more revealing than your words.’

‘feck you, Mycroft.’

‘I will call you again, brother dear.’

Sherlock counts the hours, exchanging some texts with John, asking after Mary and their daughter, desperately trying to convey calm, never touching upon the subject that has been torturing him for months. 

He does not regret pulling the trigger on Magnussen, never that. But he should have known that he could not kill the knowledge with the man. Of course he must have had sources, people who knew about Mary’s past, former colleagues, employers, families and friends of her victims. 

This is the day Sherlock realises that becoming a murderer has not been enough to fulfill his vow. He paid the price willingly and may have bought some time for John and Mary, time to welcome their daughter into the world, to start building something from the chaos. But it has not been enough. It will never be enough. And there is nothing he can do about it. 

John Watson will never be safe. 

When Mycroft calls, the answer is as one would expect. ‘Someone paid an unemployed ex-convict car mechanic to tamper with the brakes. Communication via burner phone, Spanish accent, the caller could be from anywhere in Spain or South or Central America. Money was deposited in two tranches, hidden under a container at the back of a supermarket and behind a disused petrol station.’

‘What can we do?’

‘Give me until tomorrow, Sherlock.’

In the morning the picture is golden again. Sherlock pads into the kitchen, breaks off a piece of the ficelle and eats it dry. Drinks some water. He cannot be bothered to make coffee. He remembers the strange sound that woke him during the night. He walks around the house, looking for footprints, but the earth is scorched and does not yield any clues. No prints from tyres, car or bicycle, either. Probably a nocturnal animal in front of the window. 

Sherlock finds himself strangely restless. He takes a shower, puts on shorts and a T-shirt and starts walking to the end of the garden. There is a little gate in the wall behind which a path leads to a small forest of oaks. It is already hot but the trees provide at least some shade. The gravel crunches beneath his feet and he is walking like an automaton, almost as if driven by a force he cannot resist. He knows where he is going and does not at the same time. 

When the trees open up before him, revealing the light red roof tiles of the town, bathed in the light of the early morning sun, he suddenly remembers. He knows the place. Grandmère took him here, showing him the view, sometimes in the early morning, sometimes in the evening, the roofs coloured blood red by the setting sun. Now he understands why so many artists have come here, drawn by the light and the smells and the soft yet unforgiving landscape. 

There is something in the back of this throat that does not want to go away. There is dust in his eye although no wind is stirring.

Sherlock stands there and keeps looking out over the little town and the white cliffs peeping through grass scorched yellow and trees desperately clinging to their leaves. 

He turns around sharply and walks back to the house. The unrest is still there, but now twinned with a feeling he can only describe as yearning although he does not know what for. Or he does know but does not want to admit it to himself. 

Snatches of what he read last night on the Internet come back to him.

View from the east-facing window of his asylum room … self-mutilation of his left ear … breakdown … did not count the painting among his better works … Van Gogh himself spoke of failure and being led astray, of reaching for stars that were too big and that he had his fill of that.

Maybe this is something Sherlock might say about himself. He feels like a failure because he could not protect John. He let himself by led astray by … what? Feelings? False hopes? The idea that for once in his life he could get the thing he really wanted?

He shakes his head as if to disperse those thoughts. If there is one thing he does want to do even less than drugs, then it is self-pity. He has had his fill of that. 

He enters the house through the back door. 

He is not alone. He does not hear or see anything, there was nothing outside to create this impression and yet he knows. The air has changed. There is something intangible pulling him towards the living room. Something that has been there the night before, someone who has a key, given to him by another someone who fears his brother might be drowning in honey and lavender.

A man is standing in front of the picture. Jeans, tight-fitting t-shirt, short grey hair. Not that he would need to look at the hair or the back or anything. He would know John among a million other people just by the gravitational force that is drawing Sherlock towards him. 

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ asks John. 

‘You thought I didn’t care about things like that.’

‘Doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it.’

And then, in the split second before John turns towards him and their eyes meet and their lips are touching each other, Sherlock remembers another thing he read last night.

‘But don't let us forget that this earth is a planet, too, and consequently a star, or celestial orb.’

source: Wikipedia Commons 

Last edited by ukaunz (July 5, 2016 10:29 am)


     Thread Starter

June 23, 2016 4:09 am  #4

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Here's the second fic, it's for Yitzock this time. Remember to comment in the other thread when you've read it

Author’s Note: My prompts were as follows: thunderstorm, the beach, and some humour (I’ll leave it to my reading audience to judge how well I filled that last prompt). Enjoy this story, Yitzock; hope you like it. And thanks to besleybean for beta-reading and Brit-picking my story!

Summary: John is caught in a thunderstorm that triggers flashbacks, while on vacation in Cornwall with his family, Sherlock, and Mrs. Hudson.

Thunder and Explosions

John sat cross-legged on the beach blanket that Sherlock had spread out on the sand for him, his hands clasped in his lap. His flatmate strode toward the nearest vendor’s stand to order some hamburgers. His coal-black Belstaff coat swishing in the wind; at the moment, he was waiting in line for his turn. Beads of sweat formed on the former army doctor’s forehead. John was recovering from several broken ribs that had been inflicted on him at the end of a several-day kidnapping ordeal a few weeks before. He had been released from the hospital two days ago. He still had to be very careful in sitting down and rising to his feet, and he had to avoid bending over. John glanced up at the sky. It had been overcast since they had all got up that morning. The ocean waves were rolling, a sure sign that foul weather was on its way. Mary, their baby, Louise (whom he and Mary had named after Sherlock’s and John’s former landlady, Martha Louise Hudson), and Mrs. Hudson herself were back inside the beach front hotel.

It’s been a much-welcome summer holiday, John thought. We don’t usually take holidays, nor would we be on one now, if I wasn’t recuperating from fractured ribs. He wiped the sweat off his forehead. Right now, though, I could use a nice cool breeze!

A drop of water landed on his nose. As John lifted his head, another landed on his forehead, followed by yet another on his right hand. It’s starting to rain. That’ll cool us off, he thought. As soon as Sherlock comes back with the food, though, we’d better go inside. Perhaps I should have worn my jacket—as hot as it is, though, I really wanted to leave it off. He glanced at Sherlock, who had reached the head of the line and was now ordering the food.

As the minutes passed, the light sprinkle soon turned into a steady rain. John’s greying hair was soon plastered against his scalp, and his red plaid shirt and blue jeans were soaked through. It hadn’t been the first time he had been caught in the rain, though, so he didn’t worry. When he and Sherlock returned to their hotel rooms, Mary would help him change his clothes and dry off.

Suddenly, a soft rumble of thunder off in the distance caught his attention. Uh-oh! John thought, stiffening his back, swallowing hard, and flattening the palms of his hands into the soft blanket of sand. This wasn’t going to be just a rain shower; this was going to be a thunderstorm. Lightning and thunder tended to trigger his flashbacks, just as fireworks did. They reminded him of the explosions that he had heard too often back in Afghanistan, and sitting on sand wasn’t going to help; it reminded him of the Afghanistan desert. Unfortunately, returning to the hotel wasn’t going to be as easy as it might have been; because of his ribs. John was going to need help in getting up, and then he was going to have to walk slowly and carefully toward the hotel entrance. Sherlock’s going to have to help me get up.

He took short, rapid breaths as he waited for Sherlock to come back with the food, pressing his palms deeper into the sand. The next thunder that John heard was a thunderclap, and it sounded closer. The rain immediately started pounding his head, and yet another thunderclap startled John. Please, Sherlock, hurry up with the food!

A flash of lightning, followed by a still-louder thunderclap, made John almost jump; images of gunfire and exploding IEDs immediately flashed through his mind’s eye. Deliberately taking slow, deep breaths to calm himself, he fought to push the images out of his mind, as he continued to press his palms into the soft sand to steady his body.

I’m in Cornwall, not Afghanistan, he reminded himself. That was a thunderclap, not an explosion. Not an explosion! Although a lightning bolt can be every bit as deadly as an IED.

“John!” Sherlock was bending over him, a bag of food in one hand. His own curly black hair was plastered to his scalp, and his coat was soaked through. He extended his other hand to John, who grasped it, wincing as a sharp jab of pain shot through his chest; Sherlock helped his friend to his feet. John was very careful not to bend over as he stood up. “Come on, John, let’s get back inside. I’ve got the food. Here, let’s drape ourselves with the beach blanket and get back indoors.”

John nodded. “Right.”

After Sherlock had picked up the dripping blanket and had draped it over their heads, the two of them approached the hotel entrance, with John leaning on Sherlock’s arm with one hand and guarding his ribs with the other as he slowly and carefully took short steps. Their shoes left prints in the now-wet sand. As much as John yearned to hurry inside before the storm got any worse, running was out of the question, and so he was striding. He still had to cater to his mending ribs.

Just as he and Sherlock reached the lobby door, a lightning bolt struck the ground across the car park, and an ear-splitting clap of thunder hurt their ears. Explosion! John thought, as he started to duck, only to be stopped by a strong arm restraining him. Let me go! That was a bloody IED! I’ve got to go help the casualties!!

A soft thud caught his attention, but only for an instant. Another—explosion?—sent his mind flying back to Afghanistan; immediately, two strong arms held him tightly around his stomach. “I’ve got to help them—let me go!” he yelled. “I can help them! They will die without immediate medical treatment, so let me go to them!”


Sherlock frowned as the first rumble of thunder caught his attention. Lightning and thunder tend to trigger John’s flashbacks, he thought, as he turned toward John. It was clear from the way that John was sitting rigidly on his beach blanket, with tense shoulders, a stiffened body, the palms of his hands pressed deep into the sand, and rapid breathing, that his flatmate was making a strenuous effort to force images of Afghanistan out of his head. Since his ribs are still healing, he can ill-afford a flashback now. I’d better get him back inside as quickly as I can.

Holding the bag of hamburgers in his left hand, Sherlock hurried toward the former army doctor. As he approached John, he noticed that his flatmate was now taking slow, deep breaths—to calm his nerves, no doubt, he thought.


To his relief, John looked up at him. Sherlock bent over his flatmate and extended his free hand to John, who took it, wincing; Sherlock helped his friend to his feet. John, he noticed, tried very hard to avoid bending over as he stood up. “Come on, John, let’s get back inside. I’ve got the food. Here, let’s drape ourselves with the beach blanket and get back indoors.”

John nodded. “Right.”

Sherlock picked up the sopping-wet beach blanket and draped it over their heads, holding it up with one hand so that they could see ahead of them while holding the bag with the other. He was careful to walk slowly so that John could keep up, as the two of them approached the hotel entrance. John leaned on Sherlock’s arm with his right hand as he walked slowly and carefully across the sandy beach, while guarding his ribs with his left. From the corner of his eye, Sherlock noticed that John was grinding his teeth. Part of it, he suspected, was pain, but part of it was also frustration that his healing ribs wouldn’t let him walk any faster.

As the two men opened the entrance door, the dangerously-close lightning bolt startled Sherlock, and the deafening clap of thunder that sounded practically over their heads made him wince; the noise hurt his ears. Immediately, John started to duck; Sherlock wrapped an arm around John’s stomach in the hopes of keeping him upright. Sherlock dropped the food and the blanket onto the floor so that he could grab his best friend with both hands if he had to, and keep him standing.

For an instant, John relaxed, but then another ear-splitting thunderclap sounded just outside the lobby door. Frantic desperation etched the former army doctor’s face as he began to struggle; Sherlock wrapped both arms tightly around his flatmate’s stomach to keep him upright. He was careful to avoid John’s ribs.

“I’ve got to help them—let me go!” John yelled. “I can help them! They will die without immediate medical treatment, so let me go to them!”

“John! John!” Sherlock shouted. “This is Cornwall—you’re not in Afghanistan! That was thunder you heard, not an explosion.”

“Sherlock?” A female voice caught the consulting detective’s attention. He turned his head to see Mary and Mrs. Hudson hurrying down the stairs, the baby in Mary’s arms, their shoes thudding on the steps. As the women reached the ground floor, they hurried toward the two men. “Sherlock? Is John all right?” Mary asked, her brows furrowed with worry.

“He will be when he comes out of this flashback,” Sherlock said, holding his struggling friend upright. “If I can keep him from ducking or running, that is! Right now, his mind’s back in a war zone.”

“John!” Mary handed Louise to Mrs. Hudson and placed a gentle hand on her husband’s face. “It’s all right, John—come back! Come back to us, sweetheart. Come back to your daughter and me. To Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson. Come back to us, John.” She rubbed his dripping-wet blond hair and kissed him gently on the lips. A faint scent of perfume reached Sherlock’s nostrils—it was Chanel. “Smell my perfume, sweetheart? You bought me this perfume for my birthday, remember?”

“Come back, John,” Mrs. Hudson echoed soothingly. “It’s all right, love. You’re safe here. You’re not in Afghanistan now.” She patted his shoulder with her free hand.

John suddenly went limp; Sherlock was careful to keep his firm hold on his friend’s abdomen so he wouldn’t sink to the floor, and Mary held him up under his armpits. After a moment, John blinked hard, and then, as he steadied himself, he scanned the faces surrounding him. Mary dropped her hands to her sides, and Mrs. Hudson repositioned Louise against her chest.

“Mary?” John's voice broke. “Mrs. Hudson? Sherlock?” He looked at his baby daughter staring wide-eyed up at him from Mrs. Hudson’s arms, and his face softened. “Poor Louise. Did I frighten you?” He gently patted his daughter’s silky-soft blonde hair, and then stared at the lobby they had entered. “Not—not in Afghanistan…” His voice trailed off.

“No, John.” Sherlock let go of him. “Not in Afghanistan. You’re in Cornwall, on holiday.”

“Yeah.” John nodded. “Sick leave.” He glanced down at his dripping plaid shirt as he spoke, and then shook his head at the huge puddles that were forming at his and Sherlock’s feet. His shirt and jeans and Sherlock’s black coat were dark with rainwater. “And we’re soaking wet. Sherlock and I have got to get back upstairs, so we can dry off and change our clothes.”

“You’ll need help doing that, John.” Mary wiped John’s face with the palm of her hand as Sherlock picked up the bag of food. Her husband nodded agreement.

“If you’ll give that to me, Sherlock, I’ll heat it in the microwave while you and John are changing clothes. It’ll get cold otherwise.” Mrs. Hudson handed Louise back to Mary, took the bag of food from Sherlock, and left.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson.” John smiled after her as she headed toward the microwave in the hall. Mary picked up the blanket, folded it, and draped it over her arm. A steady stream of water dripped from the sopping-wet blanket as they approached the lift; Sherlock pressed the button. As soon as the lift door slid open, John, Sherlock, and Mary slowly entered it, with Louise on Mary’s hip and John leaning on Sherlock’s arm. It made a ding! as it reached the first floor, a moment after Sherlock had pressed the 1 button.

“Really, John,” Sherlock huffed, as they entered John and Mary’s room seconds later. “One would think you were part cat, the way you can tolerate so little rainwater.”

“I can tolerate the bloody rainwater, Sherlock; it’s the lightning and thunder I can’t tolerate,” John retorted, wiping his face dry. “Thunderstorms remind me of gunfire and explosions! Particularly when I’m surrounded by sand, as I was on that beach. I especially can’t endure thunder, and the lightning doesn’t help. Anyway, you’re the one who’s part cat, the way you keep bringing dead body parts into our flat and leaving them for me to find.” Sherlock smirked, and John rolled his eyes. Laying Louise in the crib that the hotel manager had provided, Mary laughed, and then took the dripping blanket to the bathroom.

“All right, you two,” she chided, as she came back out, wiping her hands dry. “John needs to dry off, Sherlock, and so do you, so scat. Mrs. Hudson will soon be up here with our food, and I won’t have you two dripping water all over the floor while we eat.”

Still smirking, Sherlock left the room, and John and Mary laughed. She returned to the bathroom to get her husband a towel while he began to unbutton his plaid shirt; he didn’t dare sit down until he had dried off. At least, the thunder has started to die down, he thought, as a more-distant rumble sounded in his ears. He glanced out the window; it was spattered with raindrops, some of which were rolling down the windowpanes, but the clouds were looking lighter than before. The storm must be travelling through pretty rapidly, so it’ll be gone soon.

Last edited by ukaunz (June 23, 2016 4:11 am)


     Thread Starter

June 23, 2016 7:22 am  #5

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

I was inspired to do a little sketch for the story "Thunder and Explosions". I hope Yitzock and her secret author like it


Last edited by ukaunz (June 24, 2016 3:26 am)


     Thread Starter

June 24, 2016 3:28 am  #6

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Just for fun


     Thread Starter

June 26, 2016 4:42 am  #7

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

The third fic is here! I'm sure you will all leave your comments over in the other thread after reading
(Please be aware that this fic has some strong language)

This story is for nakahara. Her prompts were the following five key words: flower, river, book, Sehnsucht, Weltschmerz.

nakahara’s reading wishes are “Case fic, preferably with a Johnlock pairing, or at least with a strong friendly connection between Sherlock and John. Hurt/comfort stories are fine, as well as gentle fluff or a comedy.”

Dear nakahara

As you had a bit of bad luck with last year’s fic exchange, I was willing to give you a story that you would be happy with. But then… case fic… oh dear That’s the one category I had hoped to avoid.

Anyway I tried my best, to create at least a little case for our boys to solve and I hope you’ll like it. With one of your key words, I have to admit, I had to cheat a bit. I hope you don’t mind.

Many thanks to besleybean for beta-reading, especially on such a short notice.

Story tags:

Content Ratings: Teen and Up Audiences
Relationships, Pairings, Orientations: M/M
Content Warnings: mention of child death


It was early June and a blazing heat lay over London. The unnatural weather conditions had lasted for over a week by now and it seemed that the whole city had slowed down its hectic rhythm a bit. The water level of the Thames had reached a historic low. The few places in the city where the river and its surrounding parks promised a tad relief from the humid heat were already overly crowded by noon. People’s euphoria over these early summer days has vanished quickly, being replaced by a mood such as heavy as the weather itself. John wondered if there was something like summer depression. He knew that melancholia and mood swings happened to a lot of people during the dark winter months. But now he noticed that with each passing day without rain more and more testiness was spreading among the people around him.

John was on his way back to Baker Street with two shopping bags in his hand, lightly packed. He just purchased the most necessary things to avoid being overloaded in this weather. Entering the hall of 221B Baker Street brought a little relief from the heat outside, thought John didn’t perceive the temperature as irksome as others due to his time spent in the Afghan desert.

When John entered the living room his flat mate lay motionless on the sofa just in the same position as when John had left an hour earlier. He didn’t seem to have moved an inch. At least with his friend Sherlock Holmes John knew that his bad mood was not only due to the weather but more because of the missing number of exciting cases lately. Obviously even for London’s criminal underworld it was too warm to commit any serious crimes.

On the other hand John had observed a strange kind of melancholy by his friend lately that was beyond his usual level of being bored. It wasn’t just his motionless posture, John was very familiar with this behavior when Sherlock was deeply engaged in his mind palace. Though that wasn’t the case at the moment. Sherlock was just staring unfocused at the ceiling. John knew his friend so very well by now, that he was able to read even the subtlest variation of his facial expression. And at the moment pure world weariness was reflected on Sherlock’s face.

Sodding drama queen, John thought but couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his friend.

“Did you move at all while I was away?” John asked.

“Too hot.” Sherlock mumbled barely audible as if talking was already too much effort.

John sniggered while packing away the groceries, trying to ignore the ghastly stuff in the lower shelf of their fridge. A few minutes later he came back into the living room placing a glass on the café table before Sherlock. The other man looked at it suspiciously, as he very rarely got anything other than tea served by John, and raised an eyebrow in question.

“Ice tea.” John said. “Real one, not the sugar loaded stuff from Tesco.”

Slowly Sherlock rose from his position to take a few sips from the golden-brown liquid, enjoying the feeling of the cold brew in his body.

“Thank you, John.” Sherlock said smiling at his friend.

John’s gaze lingered a tad longer than normally on the face of his flatmate while relishing the seldom display of gratefulness. His stomach made a strange flip and he felt a little blush creeping up his face.

“You’re welcome,” he mumbled then turning away quickly walking over towards the desk trying to look occupied with turning on his laptop sensing Sherlock’s gaze on him the whole time.

“Anything on the website?”



A strange silence settled between the two men. John tried to concentrate on working on his blog though he actually had nothing to write up. He was grateful when it was time to prepare dinner so he had something to do, escaping this heavy quietness that had accompanied them for a while now. Back then when John first lived in Baker Street they could be quiet with each other for hours without feeling uncomfortable but now after almost four months since John was back they still hadn’t adjusted to each other again.

They spent dinner mostly in silence as well. Even from downstairs there were no noises to be heard as Mrs. Hudson would be home later that evening after spending some time with her cousin who had been widowed recently. John turned on the television in hope that there would at least be a little quarrel from his friend about the programme but the other man remained mostly quiet. John was certain that Sherlock didn’t just suffer from the warmth but that something else was heavily on his mind. But he had no idea how to address the issue. He wasn’t good with talking about emotions. They both weren’t.


John went to bed just before midnight. Back then during his time in the army he was rarely affected by any weather conditions from getting a good night’s sleep. But for days now, John found it very difficult to sleep through the night. Therefore it didn’t surprise him to find his clock beneath the bed showing 02:19 when he woke up. His room in the upper part of the building was warmer than the rest of the flat downstairs but he suspected that his sleeplessness had more reasons than that. Like the events that brought him back to Backer Street.

Shortly after Sherlock’s prevented (second) exile John’s life went downhill. Mary had gone into labour and all of the doctor’s efforts to prevent a premature delivery were futile. Their daughter Allison was born 10 weeks too early, tiny with irregular breathing and a weak condition. Her fragile body just wasn’t prepared enough for life yet. She kept fighting for 8 days until her little heart stopped and she died in her parent’s arms.

Sustaining a marriage after the death of your child is hard enough in a stable and healthy relationship. But with a marriage built on a lie, added with trust issues and estrangement it was almost impossible. They had tried at first but both him and Mary soon realized that with Ally’s death their reason to stay together had vanished too.

Both had packed their suitcases on the same day. John moved back to Baker Street whereas Mary disappeared. John had no idea where she went, whether she had resumed her old profession or if she tried to build herself a new life once again. To his own surprise he didn’t care. On the day John held the envelope with the divorce papers in hand (Mycroft’s doing clearly) he felt nothing but emptiness.

Sherlock had been supportive the whole time in his very own way. People might say that he was an unsocial person oblivious of other people’s feelings. But John knew that wasn’t true at all, on the contrary Sherlock had been surprisingly empathic, sensing whether John needed space or distraction. So John’s first weeks back in Baker Street were a solid alternation between privacy and chasing criminals through the streets of London.

Now, after four months, John had reached a point where he finally was able to let go. His memories of Mary were already fading. And though the grief for his daughter still hurt, he had accepted her death. What remained was this unknown issue with Sherlock. Although he was an immense help, Sherlock had also kept an odd distance towards John since they lived together again. John knew that Sherlock felt sorry for him and that he was sad as well about the loss of Mary and Allison but there was more. He seemed to be withdrawn and like that afternoon, John sometimes sensed Sherlock’s gaze upon him. John couldn’t wrap his head around it but something was bothering his friend deeply. John turned over in bed once again and sighed. Thinking about the current chaos in his life certainly didn’t help getting back to sleep at all.


Sherlock didn’t like warm weather. Wearing his long-sleeved shirts and tailored suits was sheer torture and he also had to forgo his beloved Belstaff coat. Furthermore sleeping was almost impossible during this heat. Sleep had always been an issue for him. When Sherlock was a small child, his parents, grandparents or his brother sometimes struggled for hours to get him to sleep, even at this young age his brain wouldn’t slow down.

Sherlock lay on his bed motionless with eyes closed and concentrated on the variety of sounds around him. It was in the middle of the night but there were still noises outside the flat like cars passing by or even a cyclist once. From the houses on the opposite he could hear radio music through an open window. Sherlock blocked out these noises.

The inhabitant of the flat downstairs was asleep but Sherlock could hear the ticking of the longcase clock in Mrs. Hudson’s living room. He blocked out the noise.

In their kitchen beneath his bedroom the old fridge was buzzing and Sherlock could also hear his own breathing. He blocked out those noises as well.

The only sounds left now were from the bedroom upstairs which Sherlock could hear distinctly now – the rustling of the blanket being kicked away, the pillow that was just being rearranged and the squeaking of the bed every now and then when it’s owner tried to find a comfortable position to get back to sleep. Sherlock thought he could almost hear John breathing but that was nonsense of course. Even his senses weren’t that good.

Sherlock had missed these noises. Sometimes the silence from the vacant room above was hard to take. But unlike John’s chair or other physical reminders of their shared time in this flat, Sherlock couldn’t remove a whole room from the building. Neither could he remove the memories of the feeling of close companionship that were located in every inch of the flat. He had wanted to delete them but found he couldn’t. Naturally Sherlock was happy that John was back with him now. Though he had wished for better circumstances.

John had called him after his daughter was born. It was a very brief call. Sherlock just didn’t knew what to say in this situation. But in an odd way it was okay, John seemed to understand what his friend wasn’t able to express with words. A couple of days later he invited Sherlock to come and see the girl. It was an honest offer, he would have accepted it without grudge if Sherlock had declined. She wasn’t the way he expected John’s daughter to be. He had always imagined a healthy chubby pink baby. But what he saw was a tiny and fragile creature, laying in an incubator, attached to wires and tubes. He was familiar with medical equipment and from a scientific point of view Sherlock knew every function and use the devices provided to keep this little human being alive. But on the other hand this environment frightened him immensely and it took him some time to see beyond that, to actually see the little girl, Allison, before him who had John’s eyes and Mary’s nose. John and Mary were calm and collected. All three of them barley spoke during Sherlock’s visit but there weren’t any words necessary. When Sherlock left he knew that he would never see Allison again and it was the first time for a very long time - since the day of his fall actually - that he had cried honest tears.

When John had asked him a couple of weeks after Allison’s death if he could move back in Baker Street he was at a loss. His emotions were wreaking havoc. He felt such a potpourri of feelings – sadness, joy, relief, fear, satisfaction, happiness, guilt... everything was blurring together. It made his head spin and his heart race. Sentiments! How do people live with all this sentiment? It made him nauseous.

Sherlock groaned miserably, rolled over on his left side facing the wall of his bedroom and kept listening to the sounds from the person above.


John woke up early the next morning. He felt not really rested though at some point during the night he must have fallen back to sleep. It was already very warm that morning and there was a heavy humid air coming from outside through the open window. Hopefully a thunderstorm would be coming soon and provide the necessary rain and cool down.

When John stepped outside the shower he felt much more comfortable after washing away the sweat of the previous sleepless night. While getting ready, he heard muffled voices through the door of the bathroom. He couldn’t understand what they were saying but it was clearly Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson talking. John frowned, the voice of their landlady didn’t sound cheerful like most of the times when she paid her tenants an early visit but very concerned.

John quickly pulled his clothes on, rubbed the towel through his wet hair and then left the bathroom to see what was going on outside.

“Please, Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson had just said in a somewhat desperate tone. “If you two would just go to her and have a look into this. It would be an immense relief.”

“I am sorry, Mrs. Hudson, but I have too much going on right now.” Sherlock replied. He was standing by the opened window absentmindedly plucking on the strings of his violin.

John couldn’t help but notice the bags under his friend’s eyes and his somewhat whacked appearance. Sherlock definitely needed a shower as well and John realized how much he himself longed for something to do, getting out of the flat and its strange atmosphere.

“Good morning Mrs. Hudson,” John said.

“Oh hello John,” Mrs. Hudson turned towards him with a smile but it was apparent that something was on her mind.

“Actually we do have some time to spare,” John continued throwing a glance in Sherlock’s direction, silencing the protest the other man was about to utter. “How can we help?”

Mrs. Hudson, visibly relieved about John’s offer, instantly began talking.

“I already told Sherlock, it’s my cousin Elena. I went to her place yesterday. Her husband died last autumn and the poor thing is suffering very hard. Oh, they were such a lovely couple. Her first marriage was a nightmare. We both didn’t have much luck with men, you know.”

“I see,” John said politely. “How can we help your cousin?”

“Oh yes. As I said, she’s been widowed recently and lives alone now. In the last weeks strange things happened in her flat. Things went missing.”

“There had been a break-in?”

“No. That’s the odd thing,” their landlady continued. “Her door had been locked the whole time and there were no broken windows or other damage either. But from time to time things disappeared from her house. Not every night. Sometimes it’s been two or three nights in a row, then nothing for a couple of days.”

John frowned. “So no forced entry? The stolen things… anything of value?”

“Not really, no. Books, some pictures, a diary. But all of those things belonged to Elena’s husband. And two days ago, his pocket watch disappeared as well. It was an ancient heirloom from Hans’ family and like the other things of great sentimental value to her.”

John nodded. The whole story sounded a bit odd and he instantly thought about possible explanations.

“Oh John,” Mrs. Hudson said putting her hand on his arm in a pleading gesture. “If you two boys would just go to her and look to see what you can do. Poor Elena, she is so scared. She is a person of reason, believe me she is. But she is so desperate. And now, after the watch had disappeared, she seriously begins to believe that the ghost of her husband is haunting her.”

Sherlock huffed and opened his mouth but was interrupted by Mrs. Hudson who of course knew what her tenant was about to utter.

“Of course it’s nonsense, Sherlock! I told her that myself. There are no things like ghosts! I think someone is playing a very bad prank on her.” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, her voice quivered with outrage and sad desperation.

“Do you know anyone who could wish your cousin any harm?” John said, patting her hand soothingly and shooting a glance in Sherlock’s direction to keep quiet. “Did they have any children? Any potential jealous heirs?”

“No. She sadly wasn’t blessed with children. I’m the only family left of hers. And Hans’ family is long since dead as well. That’s the thing, I can’t imagine anybody who would do something so terrible to her.”

Mrs. Hudson turned towards Sherlock. “Please. I’m really worried about her. Elena had been so sad after Hans’ death but lately she had finally began living again, going out, chatting with friends, things like that. She even started to rearrange her household. I’m afraid she’ll slip back into depression, if this… whatever this is continues.”

John exchanged looks with Sherlock who finally nodded.

“We’ll look into it, Mrs. Hudson,” John said smiling. “We’ll visit her today.”


It was a walk of about 10 minutes from the nearest station to the little town house in northern Ealing. Sherlock was quiet as usual these days on their way. To John’s surprise his friend didn’t put up a fight about taking this case. Maybe it was for the sake of Mrs. Hudson after all or just to escape the current boredom. But it was also evident that he didn’t expect a great mystery worth the effort. Mrs. Hudson had been very adamant that her cousin was not a doddery old women. But with a bout of guilt John also found it quite likely that the poor women had misplaced the missing items herself being still upset after her husband’s death. A beginning dementia that neither she or nor Mrs. Hudson wanted to acknowledge was another possibility John could think of.

With relief, John discarded these thoughts very quickly after meeting their client. Elena Levi was a lovely old lady who welcomed them to her home in a warm and friendly manner. She was of small stature, had wakeful and attentive eyes and a surprisingly strong handshake. Her short salt and pepper hair was neatly styled. Her relation to Mrs. Hudson was obvious as their facial features were very similar and Mrs. Levi also displayed the same strong and resolute demeanor as their landlady. Although, her posture also radiated tension and worry.

Mrs. Levi led them through the house she had been living in with her husband for almost twenty years. While she told them what happened during the last couple of weeks her voice was steady and her descriptions articulate and brief. John sensed that Sherlock, though he didn’t say much, felt sympathetically towards their latest client.

It all began with minor incidents Mrs. Levi had deemed as inattentiveness at first – an open cupboard, a vase that was moved out of its place or a book that was lying on the coffee table in the morning instead of the couch where she thought she had left it the previous evening. Mrs. Levi had started to worry when some framed photographs she had put on the living room wall were mysteriously lying on a nearby dresser two days later. “I knocked the nails in by myself,” Mrs. Levi said. “They were on the wall in the evening and when I got up the next morning, they weren’t anymore.”

And then suddenly things began to disappear. Mrs. Levi showed them through each room in the house explaining what things had gone missing. Sherlock inspected every room carefully looking for clues, inspecting the windows. He mostly let John handle the polite conversation.

“That was my Hans,” Mrs. Levi said smiling sadly while pointing towards a collection of pictures standing on the mantelpiece of the living room.

“Your husband was from German heritage?“ John asked while looking at the pictures of several years of married life trying not to think of his own wedding photographs that were lying in a box somewhere under his bed.

“Yes. His family emigrated to England when he was a small boy, just before World War II and naturally never returned.“ Mrs. Levi explained. She sighed and carefully caressed one of the photos showing a man in his seventies with lush grey hair and a genuine smile. “I miss him so much,” she said with a slight wavering in her voice.

“Yeah,” John mumbled, not sure what else to say.

With a contrite expression Mrs. Levi turned around towards John. “Oh Doctor Watson, I am so sorry. You’ve been through so much yourself, I shouldn’t have…”

“What’s inside there,” Sherlock suddenly interrupted, his voice a tad sharper and louder than necessary. He pointed through the window front of the living room towards a small wooden summer house that was situated in the rear part of the garden. “Any occurrences there?”

“Oh, I’m not sure,” Mrs. Levi stumbled. “But I don’t think so. The house was Hans’ place of retreat, when he needed silence. There is not much inside, just a desk, a chair and an old sofa. He used to like a plain atmosphere with no distraction when he started a new project. But he never left anything there, always took his books and papers back inside.”

“What was your husband working on?” John asked.

“I’ll show you,” she answered while leading them to the next room. “Most of the things disappeared in the library.”

They entered a small room. On each wall were floor-to-ceiling shelves cramped full of books, folders and magazines.

“This is impressive,” John said pointing towards the many bookshelves. He had noticed many books in different languages. “Are these all your husband’s?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Levi said. “You see, languages were a hobby of his. He held lectures at university about differences of various translations of British or American literature into other languages. You know, aside from English and German he spoke French, Spanish and Swedish fluently and had a profound knowledge in other languages as well.”

“You husband was an autodidact?” John asked impressed.

“You can say that yes.” Mrs. Levi replied smiling a little with a pride and sad gleam in her eyes. She pointed towards a pile of books on the desk near the window. “That was his latest project before, well… you know…”

John looked at the books on the table. It was obviously the same play by Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire but in different languages. Endstation Sehnsucht and Un tramway nommé Désir were the titles John could identify as the German and French ones but he wasn’t sure about the other languages.

John looked towards Sherlock who had followed their conversation and raised an eyebrow as a gesture of admiration. “Your husband had a professorship in literature?” the detective asked.

“Well no, this was just a hobby. He was only a guest lecturer in that faculty. But he was a professor before his retirement. Psychology was his main subject.”

“I see,” Sherlock replied, he thoroughly examined the bookshelves while their client told them about the missing items of this room – several books, a diary and the pocket watch Mrs. Hudson had told them about.

“It always lay here,” Mrs. Levi said and pointed to the desk beneath the books. Her tone had gone a bit desperate. “Hans never wore it on a chain. He said he would look like someone from the last century with a pocket watch. But he was very cautious with it, kept it with him on his desk when he worked on his analysis.”

“What does the watch look like,” John asked. “Anything special, engravings or something?”

“It is a golden watch with an embossing on the front, a flower, an orchid to be precise.”

There was a moment of silence. Sherlock was still occupied with looking around the room and through the window towards the summer house. Their client followed his gaze.

“I couldn’t bring myself to go inside there just yet.” she said, her voice sounded sad and exhausted. “It reminds me so much of him. I think I’ll preserve it as it is, as Hans’ memory.”

“Are these all the rooms of this house?” Sherlock asked still looking outside.

“Almost. There is the bedroom of course.” Mrs. Levi said while pointing to a closed door at the end of the corridor. “Do you want to see it?”

“Did anything happen there as well?” John asked. “Displaced or missing things?”

“Oh thank god no!” the old lady exclaimed putting a hand over her heart. “I wouldn’t feel safe a single minute here anymore if something like that had happened. It’s all frightening enough already but just the thought that someone would sneak around me while I’m asleep. No, I’m locking the door every night.”

“Alright,“ Sherlock said turning around abruptly leaving the room with a few long strides, John and Mrs. Levi hurried behind him sharing a surprised look. “I have everything I need. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

“Really!?” their client exclaimed. “Do you have an idea already?”

“Yes.“ Sherlock said without elaborating any further.

Mrs. Levi led them back to the front door thanking them over and over again for coming.

“Oh, one last question, Mrs. Levi,” Sherlock said turning back to their client who watched him attentively. “Did you change anything in your bedroom since your husband passed?”

“No, not yet. I couldn’t bring myself to do something just yet. I mean, Hans and me… we…”

“It’s fine, Mrs. Levi.” John quickly said patting the old lady’s shoulder in sympathy while frowning at his friend not quite sure about the aim of the question.

“Thank, you.” Sherlock said. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“So, you do?” John asked on their way back home. They luckily found a cab with working air conditioning.

“What?” Sherlock replied looking up from his mobile he had instantly started typing on when they entered the vehicle.

“You know what happened?”

“I need to do a little research, but yes, I’m 90%... no, let’s say 95% sure.” Sherlock resumed whatever he was doing with his phone.

“I suppose it’s not Mr. Levi’s ghost.” John said after a while.

“Of course not!” Sherlock huffed. “Don’t be ridiculous, John.”


John shot upright in bed, panting heavily. Nightmare, it was just a nightmare, he thought while sinking back into his pillow. He took a few deep and controlled breaths to calm his racing heart.

John was used to getting nightmares every now and then. They left him shaken for a while after waking up and sometimes the images would accompany him through the following day, but he had learned to live with it. It was the way his unconsciousness coped with the dangerous and chaotic life he led.

This was one of those nightmares he really hated though, dreaming about his best friend’s death. He had used to dream about the events of St. Barts, Sherlock jumping off the roof, which led to his two year exile. But that memory had lost its horror after John had learned the truth, after he had understood Sherlock’s motivation and finally forgave his friend. No, tonight’s nightmare was a about an entirely different situation. He had seen Sherlock on the floor of an office building lying in a puddle of his own blood, pale, eyes white open…dead… with a gunshot wound on his forehead. And in front of the body of his friend stood a woman with a gun in hand and a smug smile on her face. Mary. His wife. Well, ex-wife. It was moments like this when John was thankful for this prefix, when he realized that he had never truly forgiven her.

But yet he had tried. He had tried to believe Sherlock’s weird explanation. He had tried to love Mary again, for the sake of their daughter, to give her a family. It would have been an illusion, he knew that now. So if there was anything good he could gain from the death of his child it was not being forced to live a life that would have torn him apart sooner or later.

As soon as John closed his eyes, the image of Sherlock’s body flashed up in his mind again and he felt a pressure in his chest that made it hard to breath. The pure thought of losing Sherlock again, losing him for real hurt even more then Allison’s death had.

John sighed and got up from his bed. There was no way he would go back to sleep anytime soon. Besides it was a muggy heat in his room, his shirt clung to his body and his throat was raw with thirst. A glass of cool water would do him good now.


Sherlock stared at the ceiling. John had had a nightmare. He had heard his friend tossing in his bed. He had just woke up from it, probably sitting upright in bed right now trying to catch his breath. Sherlock wondered what the dream was about. Probably about Allison or Afghanistan or… the fall. Sometimes when John had a nightmare he would look at Sherlock in the morning with relief in his eyes, throwing glances at his friend now and then during the day as if to reassure himself that Sherlock was still there. When this happened, Sherlock knew that John had dreamed about his fall from the roof of St. Barts. Of course John didn’t talk about it. And Sherlock never asked.

Sherlock heard soft footsteps, John coming down the stairs, patting through the flat towards the kitchen, probably to get himself something to drink. His friend tried to be silent but Sherlock was so focused on the other man’s actions and he couldn’t help but notice John’s slightly accelerated breathing.

Sherlock groaned pulling his legs up to his chest, hugging them tight to him. There they were again… these emotions that made his stomach flutter and his heart racing.


“Mrs. Levi, what did your husband do for a living?” Sherlock asked.

They had taken a small breakfast at Baker Street that morning. Well, at least John had a few slices of toast. Sherlock refused claiming that he wasn’t hungry and John didn’t argue. He sensed that they were both not in the best mood that day. The sky was a dark shade of grey when they left the flat. The air was warm and sticky, a thunderstorm was imminent and when they arrived at Mrs. Levis house a first distant rumbling was to be heard.

The old lady greeted them cordially. John questioned whether anything had happened last night; she denied. Sherlock mumbled a brief greeting then went straight to the library where he inspected the bookshelves once again, waiting for John and their client to follow him into the room.

Sherlock turned around looking expectantly at Mrs. Levi waiting for her answer.

“I told you yesterday. He was a professor at university for psychology and literature.”

“But that hadn’t always been his profession had it?” Sherlock asked but obviously didn’t expect an answer as he turned around again walking to the next shelf.

“Sherlock…,” John began, annoyed by the rude behavior of his friend.

“How did you meet your husband, Mrs. Levi?” Sherlock interrupted raising his hand asking John to stop. John huffed but kept quiet. “Under what circumstances did you got to know each other?”

“I really don’t know how this concerns you,” Mrs. Levi said crossly but also insecurity was wavering in her voice.

Sherlock kept striding along the rows of books, letting his finger slide on their spines.

“Your husband’s library is indeed impressive,” he said. “You do know perhaps that he had placed all the works here according to his own logical order.”

John gave their client an apologizing smile. He knew Sherlock had a preference for over dramatics and he wished his friend would have told him everything beforehand,

“Over here…,” Sherlock continued, “is the literary fiction, sorted in chronological order.”

He moved over to the shelf on the left. “Here is the specialist literature about languages and literature.”

“And over there…,” Sherlock said striding towards a shelf on the opposite “there are the books about his original profession, psychology. Your husband worked as a therapist for many years?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Levi replied after a moment of silence.

“That’s how you met him didn’t you? You were his patient - after the unhappy ending of your first marriage.”

The old lady looked first at John who just shrugged, still not sure what Sherlock was getting at, then towards the detective and nodded.

“You have started to change things in the house, redecorating, moving furniture and so on - a quite common coping mechanism with grief by the way.”

“Sherlock.” John sighed unnerved.

“The things that went missing or were otherwise affected, these were all things that you have rearranged, aren’t they?” Sherlock continued.

“Yes,” Mrs. Levi said with a tad surprised. “Yes, indeed.”

Sherlock nodded and gave their client a sympathizing smile then he held a book up he had just taken out from the shelf. “When he worked as a therapist, your husband was specialized in a certain subject. Somnambulism. He wrote his thesis about it. It wasn’t easy to find but I finally had the opportunity to read through it - interesting work, your husband was a skilled writer and a good analyst. He mentioned several cases form his work as a therapist, especially one case was mentioned several times. A woman who suffered frequently from sleepwalking, including the moving of things, as a result of a traumatic marriage.”

Sherlock looked at their client with a mild expression as his words were slowly sinking in. “That woman was you, wasn’t it?”

“Oh my god,” Mrs. Levi said. She began to sway a little and was led to a nearby chair by John. “Do you mean… this… I did this?”

“Yes, Mrs. Levi.” Sherlock said putting his hand on her shoulder as a gesture of comfort. “You took away the things yourself while you were sleepwalking. That’s why no locked doors could help.”

Tears began to roll down her face “But… I haven’t suffered from this curse for ages!”

Sherlock had an odd expression on his face, distant but also vulnerable. “Sometimes a traumatic experience can trigger… old habits.” he said.

“But where are the missing things?” John asked though he already had a suspicion.

Just as he thought, Sherlock pointed towards the garden into the direction of the summer house.

“Oh!” Mrs. Levi gasped putting her hand over her mouth and sobbed.

“You said it yourself,” Sherlock said. “You want to preserve it as your husband’s heritage.”


John left the house slightly exhausted. Sherlock had been right of course. All the missing things were stored in the summer house. It took Mrs. Levi some effort to bring herself to enter the room but finally she saw the proof for the detective’s deduction. The books and photographs were put into a shelf, a missing pillow lay on the wooden chair before the desk on which they found the pocket watch as well.

After seeing all that Mrs. Levi had broken into a heavy fit of crying again and John wondered if he should take her to hospital. But finally the old lady calmed and also seemed immensely relieved to have an explanation for the mysterious occurrences in her home now. Although she was also very unsettled and concerned about her reawakened sleepwalking. Luckily John had saved the emergency number of his therapist on his phone and called her immediately. Ella had a long talk to Mrs. Levi promising to provide some recommendations of colleagues who were specialists in sleepwalking issues. Some time during this whole ordeal Sherlock had left, knowing full well that comfort and support were John’s part and that he would be in the way, probably saying something wrong.

When John stepped onto the street he was surprised and also pleased that Sherlock had patiently waited for him. They didn’t talk while walking down the road falling into matching rhythm both lost in thoughts. The sky had turned into an even darker grey and the air was so heavy with humidity it was almost suffocating. The scent of rain lay in the air.

Something was nagging at John, something that had just happened in the house. A low crackle of thunder was rolling across the rooftops and the first tiny drops of rain began to fall. John stopped dead in his tracks because he had suddenly realized what bothered him. It was what Sherlock had said to their client after revealing his deductions. Sometimes traumatic experiences can trigger old habits.

Sherlock had turned around wondering why John had stopped. The expression on his friends face stirred something inside him again and he felt his heart beating faster with excitement and fear.

John locked his gaze with Sherlock’s, carefully observing the reactions of his friend – every twitch of an eye, every minor muscle movement. John had never realized before how easy it was for him by now to read his friend, to interpret the meaning behind every spoken or unspoken word. He conceived it as a gift and he was willing to use it for both their sakes.

“When did you start using again?” John asked.

Sherlock huffed throwing his arms in the air. “I’m clean now. You, Mrs. Hudson, sodding Mycroft even Graham, you all search the flat on a regular basis. I don’t to drugs anymore.”

At least, for four months now.

“That’s not what I meant.” John said patiently. “When did you start again in the first place?”

Sherlock kept quiet. This wasn’t a subject he liked talking about.

“When you were away.” John said and it wasn’t a question. “During your exile.”


“And when you were back?”

“Also.” Sherlock admitted. “Sometimes.”

Not every day though. I’m not a junkie. At least not to this extent.

“Did you use again after… when you nearly left again… after what had happened on the plane?” This question was much harder to ask as John didn’t like to be reminded of that day. He had been terrified when he saw the list and realized that his friend was probably on the verge of dying.

“Once.” Sherlock whispered looking away not able to stand John’s gaze any longer. But John had seen the moisture in his friend’s eyes.

Oh. Allison’s death. Maybe John should have been angry and at a not so long time ago he would probably have been furious that Sherlock used the death of John’s child as an excuse to take drugs. But he knew now that it wasn’t that easy.

Sherlock had suffered. He had to be away for two years. He had to leave everything that was important to him behind – his reputation, his home, his friends and family. He was forced to be alone for such a long time. Alone. Lonely.

“Sherlock, why did you never tell me?” Why did you never tell me how much you were hurting?

Sherlock didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. John could see everything in his friend’s eyes. You were away. You had a life when I came back. I was so lonely.

“I know, I had been gone. Busy with… other stuff and …” Oh god, John thought at the realization how much his friend had suffered, how much he had to endure – danger, pain, denial, disappointment, loneliness. Lonely.

The little dripping had developed into a steady rain. The sky had gone so dark, it almost felt like nighttime. A first crack of lightning brightened the sky in the distance and after a few seconds a low rumble of thunder was to be heard.

“But we have been living together for four months now. I… you… we could… we should have talked about it.”

“I thought, you wouldn’t want to.” Sherlock said, still avoiding looking at John. “After everything what happened with… with Mary and… Allison.”

“It’s not your fault, Sherlock.” John whispered shocked about how broken his friend sounded. “Do you think I blame you for what happened?”

“I made a vow…” Sherlock mumbled barely audible.

“Jesus, Sherlock. You are a marvellous and gorgeous man with extraordinary talents but there are things, you can’t control, can’t prevent from happening. And Ally… it… it just wasn’t meant to be…”

Sherlock cautiously looked up, sadness in his eyes, hope but also doubt.

“Oh, come here,” John said, pulling his friend close, wrapping his arms around him. Despite the heaviness in his stomach, it fluttered at the feeling of Sherlock pressed against him. Rain was pouring down on them but John couldn’t care less. All he noticed at the moment was Sherlock’s warm body, slightly shaking hat first but after a moment his friend relaxed in his arms, the embrace obviously soothing him.

They slowly parted after a long moment. John once again looked intensely to his friend telling him with determination in his eyes that he meant what he said. “I’m not sure our marriage would have lasted if our daughter had survived. And that wouldn’t have been your fault either.”

“Well, it was me, she shot.” Sherlock replied but his tone wasn’t as distressed anymore.

“Exactly, it’s about what SHE had done.”

John hadn’t noticed that after he had loosened the embrace he still held Sherlock’s hand in his. Oddly, it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, holding hands with your best pal. He could feel that Sherlock’s hand was still trembling lightly. It was obvious how strenuous this conversation was to him, but John knew that this talk was long since overdue. He gave the other man’s hand a little squeeze and tugging it little to indicate the continuation of their journey home. They were already almost soaked to the bones.

They walked together side by side, each man lost in his own thoughts, the mood a bit lighter but now something else was lingering between them, something that was almost as electrifying as the air around them. John still held Sherlock’s hand in his.

Suddenly a bright flash of light split the sky above them and a deafening thunder cracked through the air only a second later. Sherlock had stopped, looking up into the sky, his dark curls clung against his forehead. John stood patiently by his side observing his friend’s behaviour.

“Do you really think I’m gorgeous?” Sherlock asked turning towards John.

John gulped, something in the gazing blue eyes of his friend stirred something inside him.

“Yes, Sherlock,” John whispered. “Yes, you are fucking gorgeous to me.”

The brightness of another bolt lightened Sherlock’s face and John could see a determination there he hadn’t witnessed for a long time, maybe even never before. Suddenly he felt Sherlock’s strong hands on his shoulders pushing him against the brick wall behind him. His eyes were full of heat and desire as he lent down towards John pressing their lips together. Sherlock’s mouth was warm and the caress of his lips softer than John could have imagined it. He opened his mouth with a low moan while warmth spread throughout his entire body. He pulled Sherlock closer until there was no space left between them. John could feel the beating of the other man’s racing heart against his chest as their kiss intensified becoming hot, passionate and demanding.

When they broke apart for air, Sherlock rested his forehead against John’s. “Let’s go home.” he whispered.

I’m not lonely anymore.

- The End -

Last edited by ukaunz (July 5, 2016 10:26 am)


     Thread Starter

June 26, 2016 5:01 am  #8

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Here's a little sketch I did for 'Insomnia.'

Ugh, pillows are really hard to draw!

Last edited by ukaunz (June 26, 2016 5:04 am)


     Thread Starter

June 29, 2016 3:58 am  #9

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Welcome to our fourth fic for the exchange; this one was written for stoertebeker. Please remember to comment over there

Author’s note: Thanks for the challenge, stoertebeker. Your prompt was fairly straightforward, but it was still a challenge to get things strung together, though I think I still got some good ideas. I actually had to do a little bit of research, too, which was fun (with any luck I didn’t make any glaring errors for those familiar with the locations). I hope this short story is to your satisfaction, at least that it entertains you, and that you are having a good summer. Prompts: violin, library, silver, Tower Bridge, lighthouse.

Rating: General audiences
Pairing: M/M (John/Sherlock)
Content warning: Mention of murder, but no gory details.

Sick Leave

It was a warm summer day in the south of England as George D. Shooter was hustled away by a pair of police officers. John and Sherlock watched from a distance before heading out to the point where the South Foreland Lighthouse stood.

“One advantage to this work,” said John. “Free admission.”

“It’s not exactly free admission,” Sherlock said.

“Shut up and let me enjoy a view that most people have to pay money to see.”

“People say that as if there were any other way to pay to – ”

“Sherlock. Please.”

The two of them stood on the green grass and watched the waves crash against the jagged coast, the sound drowning out Sherlock’s giggling at getting a rise out of John. After letting his mind wander for a while, John turned to Sherlock.

“You ready to go?” he asked. Sherlock nodded.

The headed back towards the car, where Lestrade was waiting. They were just about to get in when John sneezed.

“Bless you,” said Lestrade. “Maybe you spent too much time in the wind.”

“He’s sneezed several times today,” Sherlock replied. “Four times more than in a typical day.”

“You count my sneezes?” John asked in surprise.

“Will you be able to drive with atypical sneezing patterns?” Lestrade interjected jokingly. John shot him a less-than-impressed glare.

“Of course I can,” he said. “I think we’d better go.”

Lestrade said his brief goodbyes and then the two got in the car to start the two-hour drive back to London.

“Maybe I am coming down with something,” John murmured as he remembered Sherlock’s words. By the time they arrived back at Baker Street after returning their rental car, John was even more certain that he was coming down with something, his nose much more stuffed up than before.

“Finally home,” John said as he and Sherlock entered through the front door to the flat. John slipped out of his shoes and plopped himself down, practically falling, into the sofa. Sherlock soon joined him.

“Better not get too close,” John said. “I don’t want to get you sick, too.”

“I’m not worried,” Sherlock whispered into his ear. “But I’ll be cautious for now.” He kissed John’s cheek. John hummed quietly and squeezed Sherlock’s knee before getting up.

“I’m going to bed.”

When John woke up the next morning, he could barely breathe through his nose and even if he did not feel much like sleeping he did not feel like getting out of bed. He forced himself up and lumbered down to the kitchen. It took him twice as long to put on the tea and make the toast than it usually did since he was slowed down by sneezing and his watering eyes.

“Good morning, John,” Sherlock said, entering the kitchen just as John had finished.

“Good morning, Sherlock” John replied. “I’m glad the case is finished. I’m not up for going anywhere today.”

They ate breakfast quietly, neither of them having much to say. Even if he wasn’t sick himself, Sherlock still seemed to be fatigued from the case they had solved the day before. It had lasted several months and had seemed endless. An erratic serial killer who leaves his victims in the lobbies of upscale hotels may not necessarily seem like the most secretive of murderers, but it was a case that proved hard to crack. The fact that it led them to a lighthouse at the end was just another oddity of it all.

After they had both finished breakfast, Sherlock got up and put his hand on John’s shoulder.

“Let’s go back to bed,” he said. Sherlock took his hand and helped him up from his chair. Both knew that he did not really need to be helped with such an action, but John appreciated the gesture. They each lay on one side of the bed and began to snooze.

They had been there for about ten minutes when Sherlock’s phone pinged. He sat up and picked it up from the bedside table. He read the message and then let out a sigh.

“It’s Lestrade,” he said disappointedly. “He’s got a new case for me.”

John began to stir but Sherlock stopped him. “Stay here,” he said.

John drowsily listened to the sound of clothes shuffling as Sherlock got dressed and left the flat before he fell asleep again.

When John woke up again it was just past noon. He was not particularly hungry but he figured he should eat something, even if it was not much, so he forced himself out of bed and put the kettle on. He contemplated what to eat, but he did not have the energy to make toast, so he just grabbed an apple.

By the time he finished, he was too tired to go all the way back to bed, so instead he settled down on the sofa and put on some television programme to mindlessly watch.

Sherlock returned to the flat that afternoon with Lestrade. The two of them were sweat-drenched and out of breath.

“I take it there was a chase?” John asked when he saw them.

“Yeah,” Lestrade panted.

“Lost him, though,” Sherlock added, wiping his brow.

“Sit down,” John said, waving weakly to the chairs and sitting up from his lounging position. “Sorry for taking up so much space.”

“It’s fine, John.”

“Do you have company?” Mrs. Hudson’s voice called from the stairwell as she climbed up to 221B.

“Just Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock replied when she appeared at the door. Lestrade shot him a look.

“I’ll make you some lemonade, dears,” she said. “You two look like you’ve had quite the afternoon.”

“Quite the afternoon, maybe,” Sherlock said, “but not a successful one.”

“I’m sure you’ll have better luck next time,” Mrs. Hudson replied from the kitchen.

“If we get this done soon, I might be able to have a summer holiday,” Lestrade said. “But knowing this job, I don’t know if that’s even possible.”

As exhausted as Lestrade and Sherlock looked, John wished he could have gone with them. Even if it was a hot summer, he did not like being stuck at home sick with no energy to do anything. He always thought getting sick in the summer was the worst.

Mrs. Hudson was bringing out the lemonade when Sherlock’s phone sounded.

“It’s my brother,” Sherlock said when he looked at the screen. “For once he’s actually cooperating and not calling me instead.”

“What did he say?” John asked.

“He says he’s concerned about the fact that I left Baker Street on my own this morning and he’s coming to check on me,” Sherlock grumbled. “Because that’s never happened before now, apparently.” He rolled his eyes.

Mycroft arrived ten minutes later.

“Good afternoon,” Mycroft said as he entered. He looked over each of the faces in the room before he saw John. “Ah! Dr. Watson. It’s good to see you alive.”

“What?” John asked. Mycroft did not respond, instead changing the subject to his brother.

“I can see you’ve been unsuccessful, Sherlock,” he said. “I haven’t seen you this sweaty from a chase since the Monopoly murders.” Mycroft then turned back to John. “He couldn’t solve it right away because he didn’t know the rules of Monopoly.”

“You never played it when you were a kid?” Lestrade asked.

“I remembered playing it but by then I had deleted the rules,” Sherlock said. “I thought the details were impertinent.”

Deleting memories,” Mycroft teased. “I don’t need to delete things, though since I would win most of the time it doesn’t surprise me that you would want to erase those memories. Anything to try to forget that I’m the smart one.”

“Who needs to play a game to solve murders?”

“You are the one who says ‘The game is on.’”

“Shut up, Mycroft!”

“Anyway,” Mycroft continued, “the real reason I’m here is to bring you this.” He opened his briefcase and pulled out a fairly thick folder. “I think you will find this document of use to you.”

“What is it?” Lestrade asked as Sherlock took the folder and opened it to peruse the contents.

“Just some documents from the government library that should help you with your investigation,” he replied. “You are very close to cracking it, but there’s something you’re missing.”

“How do you know all this? Are you saying we just chased the wrong man halfway across London?” Lestrade asked incredulously.

“Not exactly,” Mycroft said. “Just read them, Sherlock.” He left Lestrade’s first question unanswered.

“So nice of you to help, Mycroft,” Mrs. Hudson said, handing him a glass of lemonade. Nobody had realised she was still there.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson,” Mycroft replied smugly before taking a sip.

John stopped paying attention to the conversation for a while after that, his gaze wandering over to the window. He could not see the street from where he was sitting, but he could see that there were flower boxes full of brightly-coloured blooms on a few of the windows of the building across from theirs. It was actually a sunny day and he wished he had the energy to go out and enjoy it, even if it was to chase a murder suspect.

“I must be going now,” Mycroft said, bringing John back to the situation in the room. “Good luck with the case, brother mine.”

Sherlock did not say anything in response.

Lestrade left soon after, but not before he took a look at what was in the folder that Mycroft had brought.

There were two documents, which they decided to split between the two of them. They conferred for a little while before Lestrade had to get going.

Sherlock sat down next to John on the sofa with the document Mycroft had brought on his lap.

“Any better?” he asked John.

“Not really,” John replied.

Sherlock then got to reading the dry, but moderately informative, text. John watched Sherlock’s concentrated face as his eyes scanned the pages. He wondered what was going on in that brilliant mind of his.

After a while he noticed Sherlock’s shoulders getting hunched and reached his arm out to rub them. Sherlock slowly straightened and emitted a short hum when he felt the presence of John’s hand.

Mrs. Hudson quietly came up the stairs, unheard by the residents of 221B, who were much too focused to notice her quiet footsteps. She arrived at the door and was about to ask if Sherlock was going out again that evening, but stopped herself when she saw the scene in the living room. She admired it for a few moments before descending.

When Sherlock had finished reading, he let out a sigh.

“Was it any help?” John asked him quietly.

“I just need to think,” Sherlock said, getting up from his seat.

John got up, too, and made himself a meagre meal before heading to bed. Even though he had been feeling tired all day and it had only become worse as the evening went on, he could not fall asleep. He knew it was partly because his nose kept getting stuffed up, but he had slept the night before, so he did not know why this time was any different. After he had tossed and turned for a few hours, he gave up and went downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water.

When he got down, Sherlock was pacing in front of the window.

“Have you slept at all?” John asked him. He knew that Sherlock didn’t always sleep very much on a case, wanting to spend as much time possible thinking things over, but he was still a human being.

“About two hours,” Sherlock mumbled, clearly still lost in his thoughts. “Lestrade texted me a briefing of the rest of the document, now I just need to work things out.”

“I’m sure you’re almost there,” John said before going to the kitchen. When he brought his glass of water with him and sat down on the sofa, Sherlock had not moved. John assumed he was deep in thought about the case when Sherlock turned around to face him.

“Can’t sleep?” Sherlock asked.

“No,” John sighed.

Sherlock then walked across the room. He opened his violin case, tuned up, and began to play.

John loved the peaceful look that Sherlock’s face had when he played, his posture as he held the instrument, and the smoothness of his arm guiding the bow over the strings. Those alone were relaxing, but combined with the sound of the violin itself Sherlock nearly sent John to another state of being. The notes of Bach, though a little sad, made John feel completely at peace.

John did not hear Sherlock stop playing and emit an “Oh!” of realisation. When Sherlock turned back around to face him and tell him what he had worked out about the case, he saw that John was fast asleep.

The next morning, Sherlock had already left when John woke up, feeling well-rested and that he was getting better. He made himself a better breakfast since he actually felt he had an appetite. His phone buzzed when he was finished.

Found both murderers. Case solved. Will be back this afternoon. -SH

John smiled to himself, not only happy that Sherlock had had the breakthrough he needed, but because he knew that Sherlock would not enjoy dealing with the paperwork at the end of a case that he usually handed off to John.

Make sure you actually accept the money this time was John’s only reply to the message that he felt was necessary. Just because he wasn’t there to do the paperwork didn’t mean that he was going to let Sherlock complete the case without accepting money, no matter what his tendency was.

John was sitting on the sofa watching television when Sherlock got home, which he turned off as soon as Sherlock greeted him. It was clearly still very hot outside, since not only was Sherlock not wearing a jacket, but he had rolled up his shirt sleeves.

“I have a question for you,” John said after Sherlock had joined him on the sofa. “What were these Monopoly murders that Mycroft mentioned when he was here?”

“It was a case from a few years ago,” Sherlock explained as he sat down and leaned back in the sofa, practically sinking into it. “A serial killer left the bodies around a specific area of London, leaving only silver pieces – which I later realised were silver recreations of Monopoly pawns – as a clue to the pattern of the bodies, which was of a Monopoly game. He would pass ‘Go,’ a designated location, and kill someone else.

“While looking at a past unsolved case, I found the unsolved case of the Cluedo murderer, who left Cluedo character pieces with his victim and recreated the death of Mr. Body as described in the game. Making some connections between the two, I determined that these crimes were all committed by the same person. It helped that there was a silversmith in the immediate vicinity of the so-called ‘Monopoly murders.’ The silversmith’s products were of excellent quality.”

Hearing about the silversmith, John wondered if he would ever have a ring from such a place. He knew Sherlock would find such gestures superfluous and unnecessary, but he began to imagine what Sherlock could be like, asking someone he loved to marry him. He imagined that he would stumble over the words at some point, even if they were rehearsed, likely going off-script at some point, which would end up being much more heartfelt. Sherlock would not be the best at speeches, or at least not perfect.

Knowing Sherlock, though, John didn’t care about that.

“It turned out to be sloppy on the murderer’s part,” Sherlock continued, taking John out of his ponderings. “We were able to trace the items to that silversmith fairly easily, and once that was done it was not too long before we found him through the information we obtained from our visit to the shop.”

“Must have had a flair for the dramatic,” John said, “leaving items at the crime scenes and going to the trouble of orchestrating a formation that replicated a game. It almost makes you want to admire the man on some level…oh, god, I’m starting to sound like you!”

Sherlock smirked. “It comes from proximity,” he said. John smiled back at him. Sherlock took his hand and stroked it lovingly with his thumb. “Feeling better today?” he asked.

“Getting there,” John said.

“What do you want to eat tonight?” Sherlock asked.

“Takeaway is fine,” John said. “I actually have an appetite now.”

“Right,” Sherlock said. “Takeaway it will be. And then early to bed.”

“Sounds lovely.”

They ate their food and by then John was ready to go to sleep. He started to head towards the stairs to go up to his bedroom, but Sherlock stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder. The two of them went to Sherlock’s bedroom. The warmth of having Sherlock next to him made it easy to fall asleep.


It was a beautiful sunny day that Saturday. It had been a few days since Sherlock had solved the case and John was feeling completely recovered. Sherlock had not yet been given another case. Maybe the murderers were on summer holiday, too, for once.

The flat was a bit too warm for their liking, so they went to the library to take a break from the heat. Sherlock found a book he had been thinking of reading and John flipped through a magazine for a little while before looking out the window next to the table where they were sitting.

“Days like this make me think of when I was a kid,” John said as he looking out and recalled day trips in the family car. “Do you want to go anywhere today?”

“What do you have in mind?” Sherlock asked, looking up from the pages of this book.

“Well,” John began, “as funny as it might sound, I’ve never visited the Tower Bridge.”

“Certainly you must have seen it,” Sherlock said. “You’ve been living in London with me for over two years.”

“I have, but I’ve never actually visited it. I’ve always wanted to; it feels like there’s something I’m missing. Do you want to go today?”

“I don’t see why not,” Sherlock replied, getting up from his chair and putting the book down.

“You seem rather eager,” John said, chuckling at Sherlock’s quick reaction to the outing. “Have you not been there before, either?”

“Of course I have,” Sherlock scoffed, before shifting his eyes. “Just not since I was ten.”

John smiled.

They started with the viewing area and its big windows, then went back down to where they could stand by the railing in the open air as they looked out over the Thames.

John snapped some photos with his phone camera, including one of Sherlock as he took everything in. After taking about a dozen, John put his phone back in his pocket and stood next to Sherlock, who placed his hand on top of John’s on the railing, to contentedly enjoy the view as the sun reflected off the water.

When John turned his head to look up at Sherlock, Sherlock was already looking down at him, his mouth turned up in a smile.

“What are you looking at?” John teased lovingly, smiling back.

“You,” Sherlock said. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Rhetorical question.”

Sherlock leaned in and the two of them kissed as the sun shone down on a perfect summer day.

Last edited by ukaunz (June 29, 2016 4:06 am)


     Thread Starter

June 29, 2016 4:12 am  #10

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

My little contribution for today. I was going to attempt a drawing of Sherlock and John on the Tower Bridge, but ended up with this image instead, hope you like it


     Thread Starter

July 2, 2016 4:01 am  #11

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Here is our fifth story, the halfway point of the exchange! Hope you're all enjoying reading these fantastic fics, please do go over and leave a comment here after each one.

Dear Vhanja, here is your fic. Part of our prompt was “Johnlock, drama, angst and happy ending”. I hope you can find all that in this fic. As an additional prompt you gave me the words “coffee, chocolate, library, old books and whisky”. I really hope you like what I made of it.

I am sorry for not making a case fic out of it.

Many thanks to ukaunz for some high-speed beta-reading!

First Time

Soft summer rain was drizzling down on him. It made the city smell of earth. A wonderful smell, linked in his mind to childhood and freedom and joy. A smell of freshness, of growth. The water in the air was so light and warm that it felt like it was caressing you. A pleasant, almost sensuous sensation.

How could the London weather screw it up so completely?

His soul needed a thunderstorm now, or at least a proper rainfall, cold and merciless, drenching his clothes and drenching his soul. Painful. With thunder vibrating in his ear drums and lightning cutting through the dark, swirling sky. He should be freezing and shaking and his hands should be stinging from the cold and his trousers should be plastered to his cold, stiff legs. He should be so wet that moving was painful, so cold that his nose was running and his cheeks were freezing.

Instead, he merely felt his hair slowly curling up under the constant drizzle. That was not helpful at all!

Oh how he longed to be as miserable on the outside as he was on the inside but the weather did not appear to be cooperative.

Was John feeling better?

But it didn't matter. It shouldn't. He didn't want to feel protective of John right now. He wanted to loathe him, to curse his name and damn the day they finally kissed for the first time.

And what a glorious first kiss that had been. A clash of lips and teeth and hunger. Two starving souls, desperately in love for so many years, lost in a place without hope for too long. It was clumsy, and too wet, and absolutely perfect. The first time they kissed. Unexpectedly, out of the blue. Seven months ago now. The unexpected beginning of a life so rich and colourful and warm and safe.

But no, he didn't want to indulge that memory. He was angry. Angry with John and angry with himself. But that wasn't the right thing to be, was it? No, being angry with John was what he needed to focus on. Just being angry with John. Because John had been mean.

Unbelievably so. John was not supposed to be mean. He was supposed to be warm and gentle and wrong occasionally and angry at the world and life and fate sometimes, but never angry with Sherlock. Not angry like that. You-insufferable-git-angry, yes, or What-have-you-done-to-the-fridge-angry. Not angry enough to lash out at him and say things that hurt.

The rain was so soft that puddles were only just forming. Sherlock tried to stomp through them in an impressive way but that only caused little ripples.

It had not been Sherlock's fault, and that was the most unfair part of it. Because let's face it, Sherlock often did things that had the potential to make John angry, to make John regret the first kiss and everything that grew from it. But not today. Today, it has not been Sherlock's fault, and yet here he was, stomping the streets of London, angry with John, far from being as cold and miserable as he should be.

The soft warm drizzle still refused to soak Sherlock's jacket. Damn those summer rains.

His mobile was quiet.

Of course it was. No message from John, saying he was sorry. No call from John, saying he was sorry. Nothing.

Was John sorry? Sherlock was but that was not helpful at all because it has not been his fault.

He slowed down a bit. Strolling was more compatible with the weather today. Despite the rain it was warm, and the other people around him were in no hurry either. He tried strolling angrily but it didn’t work. Maybe it was enough to stroll with an angry look on his face? Yes, better.

Should Sherlock contact John first? But what should he say? John already knew that Sherlock was angry. The shattered whiskey glass surely left no doubt. And the knocked over chair. And the slammed door.

There had been a chair knocked over the first time they had sex, too. He had been scared of it for weeks. Scared that having sex would change the nature of their relationship. For the worse, because really, it could not get any better. Scared that he would not like it. His experiences were patchy at best. Most of them collected while high or craving and none of them were fulfilling. Scared that he liked it but wasn’t good enough so John would not like doing it with him.

How unnecessary those doubts had been. Waiting a few weeks after kissing had made them both so needy that they exploded like a thoroughly shaken bottle of champagne. A touch here and a pinch there, and they were over each other like school boys, and before they could both wonder about liking it or not, they were satisfied beyond compare.

Later, they found softer ways to make love, more gentle ways to last for hours, but that first time had been perfect just the way it was.

His hair was all curly now. He hated it. John would love it. He had an obscure soft spot for product-free Sherlock-hair for whatever reason.

Let's face it, the sex was fantastic. Like the one time John secretly gave him a hand job at the London Library, in front of books so old that even Sherlock felt humble leaning against the shelf while coming.

Maybe Sherlock should just go home, tell John he was forgiven and resume working on the case with him. He could even bring a stupid little present like chocolate or flowers. Well, that was only a good idea if John was done being angry too. And if John also felt like it was up to Sherlock to forgive him.

And has he in fact already already forgiven John? Good question. His words still lingered in Sherlock’s mind, painful and burning like coffee in your stomach when you are drinking too much of it during a difficult case. And unfortunately, he knew how that burnt. But he has not experienced that feeling in quite some time because John always stops him just before it would be too much.

Sherlock was simply not used not being to blame for an incident. Hence, he had no idea how to deal with being the guiltless party of a fight.

He realized that the drizzle must have stopped some time ago. The streets were damp now, the water evaporating from the warm ground. The sun has not broken the clouds yet but it seemed to be only a matter of time. Damn.

The dreadful words had come out of the blue. Or hadn’t they?

Looking back at the last few hours, Sherlock had to admit that John had been very quiet for a while. When had it started? At the crime scene. Sherlock had deduced and John had admired him, and then suddenly, John had stopped talking. But why?

In his mind, Sherlock replayed the scene. How they entered the crime scene together. How they were led into the room where the corpse was lying. How he deduced that the victim had cheated on his wife. How he told John. How John was unable to follow the deduction. How Sherlock had told him that it hadn’t mattered and how Sherlock had gone on analysing the crime scene.

Yes, that was the point where John had stopped talking. But why?

He left the mind palace again and realized that he was walking through a park now. The air was humid and warm and he was sweating instead of being miserable and cold. At least his shirt was sticking to his chest now in a really unpleasant way. Not as good as freezing until your teeth were chattering but better than feeling all warm and soft inside.

The silence of John was still a riddle. He had remained silent on their way home. There, in the living room, where John’s books in the shelves gave proof of his ongoing presence, where John’s laptop was standing on the table because it belongs there, there in the living room that was their living room again for months now, Sherlock had offered to explain his deduction again. There in their living room, John had exploded.

It had been one sentence. Short and shouted in rage. Enough to make Sherlock flinch and lose control himself.

Somehow he wished he had shouted back at John instead of thrashing things and storming out. And leaving John behind, looking … How had he looked? Sherlock replayed the scene again in his mind. He watched himself losing temper instantly. No, stop. Concentrate on John!

But it didn’t work, not right now. Well, maybe he needed to go back in time further. To the crime scene again where John looked tired and confused and … tired. Why did he look that tired? Well, most likely because they had been following several leads for nearly two days now.

Yes, that must be it. John was tired.

But that was no reason to …

And rightfully so, for Sherlock had prevented him from going to bed twice that day. Wait, why had John wanted to go to bed twice a day? Oh, because it had been more than one day. Sherlock checked his mobile. Oh. Three days. Well, no wonder John was looking tired then.

But still, that was no reason to say something as terrible as ….

Three days without sleep was a long time, wasn’t it? John usually got grumpy after two.

But still, no reason to say something terrible like …

Like “I’m really sick of stuff like this!”

Oh. Sherlock noticed how his feet stopped walking. He was standing still now, seriously considering what John had said.

It has not been that bad, really. And understandable in retrospect. Damn. So all his thrashing things and stomping and suffering had been a bit … he was not ready to call it “exaggerated”, but maybe a bit … slightly … over-reactive?

He sighed. The sun was shining now, he realized, and some birds had the audacity to sing. And he felt not really bad any longer because it really had not been such a big thing. A part of him was a tad disappointed. Your first fight should be about something important, not a little clash of two tired men. But maybe they still could …

His mobile was in his hand before he really noticed it, and he had already dialled John’s number.

“Our fight was stupid but can we have make up sex anyway?”

On the other end, he heard silence, then soft laughing. Oh how he loved John’s laughing.

“Of course we can,” he heard John say with lots and lots of affection in his voice. “I am sorry for lashing out. I was just …”

“Tired, I know,” Sherlock finishes for him, already looking for a cab.

They were both quiet for a moment. “John,” Sherlock said then, “I am sorry that our first fight was so banal.”

Now he could hear John laughing loud and truly amused. “Oh, don't worry, love,” he answered, and Sherlock's heart swell at the sound of “love”, “that has not been our first fight. Our first quarrel at best.”

Sherlock opened his mouth but John spoke up again before he could say something, “And yes, we can still have make-up sex anyway!”

Sherlock felt himself beaming. Unable to say something, he simply hung up.

The sun was shining now, a few white clouds hanging in the air lazily, birds were singing in fresh green trees. Never before has the weather fitted Sherlock's mood more perfectly.

Last edited by ukaunz (July 2, 2016 4:05 am)


     Thread Starter

July 2, 2016 4:13 am  #12

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

I just imagined Sherlock with the loveliest smile at the end of First Time.

Last edited by ukaunz (July 2, 2016 4:14 am)


     Thread Starter

July 5, 2016 12:30 am  #13

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Fic number six is a longer one! Don't forget to leave comments in our other thread
(In case we have any sensitive people reading, this story comes with a language warning)

Dear dioscureantwins,

you gave me this fantastic, ingenious bunch of prompts: "I love the smell of semtex in the morning. Summer is the perfect season for murder, wouldn't you say? Five pips. Racing on the Thames. Sherlock would climb the Eye chasing a murderer."

You also specified that you would love to read gen/friendship, with Sherlock in a starring role, preferably seen from another person's POV and with John as a staunch supporter in any shenanigans Sherlock might end up in. You would love to read a casefic sprinkled with angst and humour and horror and you would not be opposed to some admixture of Greek and Roman mythology in it.

Your deal breakers were alpha omega or genderswap and that abominable wife together with Sherlock’s fake parents.

Your conditions absolutely delighted me and I decided to fulfil as many of them as I could. I was also determined to include every one of your prompts in the story – the plan I managed to successfully complete in the end. Still, this decision forced me to exceed the maximal word-limit by some 3500 words, for which I deeply apologise to you and to the rest of the participants. I hope you’ll enjoy the story anyway and overlook this slip in judgement.

I also apologise that I could not resist and mixed a bit of Johnlock into this tale. But I marked those parts of the story with the cursive, so that you might skip them if you are not inclined to read such things. The story would not suffer from it.

Apollo and the Aluminium Crutch

I still remember how astonished I was when I first saw the statue.

Mycroft’s office, into which I was unceremoniously pushed, was immersed in a warm semi-twilight. Wooden panels covering the walls, barely visible in the background, hid in a mead-coloured shadows, while the strong sunlight coming from outside painted shiny ovals on the surface of the thick carpet there under the windows. All was silent and undisturbed. Only the particles of dust shivered in rays of light which cut across the heavy air. 

And there it stood, in the alcove placed right at the edge of the darkness and sunshine.

It startled me because at that first moment, when I was still disoriented, I shortly believed it to be the sculpture of Sherlock.

Tall, beautiful young man displayed his nakedness with a sensuality that was not entirely masculine. Lush curls covering that proud head fell on nicely formed shoulders in heavy waves, whimsically backswept and long white neck offered itself to the spectators as if it awaited a kiss. Large cloak, clasped by the brooch, only existed as a narrow strip spread over both clavicles, leaving nothing to imagination otherwise. Yet there was nothing animalistic in that face. Strong jaw, broad forehead and bold, direct gaze spoke of a composed character and a keen intellect… if statues could think, of course.

“Impressive, isn’t he?”

Mycroft! As usual, he gave me a nasty shock when he appeared behind my back so suddenly. His eyes bore into me with undisguised irony and his lips were drawn into an unpleasant, contemptuous smirk. Damn him!

I stammered that we had a similar statue of Apollo at the university during my student days, but Mycroft didn’t listen to me at all. He leisurely went around me, moving silently as a cat and seated himself behind his writing desk.

“I understand why you are obsessed,” he continued with his soliloquy as if I didn’t utter a word. “But don’t succumb to him, Dr. Watson. He’s a cruel god.”

He made a pregnant pause after this sentence, to further emphasise it. 

Then, without any further ado, he flipped open some report and tore into me. He told me that Sherlock had been observed near a notorious drug-den in Southall and accused me what a lousy job I do, taking care of him. I switched to the battle-mode immediately and replied sarcastically. And so the issue concerning this sculpture was forgotten momentarily.

But all the while, it remained hidden at the back of my mind, dwelling there in the form of some vague, undefined unease.

“Don’t succumb to him, John. He’s a cruel god.”


It’s weird how things buried in our past resurface when we least expect it.

Nothing indicated what would happen today. The day was very hot and the azure sky above Thames so clear and deep, it dwarfed even the high white arc of the London Eye into humbleness. Those blue depths invoked the sense of pleasant vertigo, while the waves of the river glistened invitingly, resembling the polished surface of some strange metal.

The ice-cream melted slowly in my mouth, cold and absolutely delicious.

“Is this vanilla?” Sherlock, the sworn enemy of all sweets, scowled at me with brows knitted in mock disgust.

“Mmm,” I replied, licking busily.

We stood by the base of the giant Ferris wheel, with the fresh greenery of Jubilee Gardens at our backs and enjoyed the view of the flowing water. Sherlock’s unruly curls fluttered in the light breeze and his paleness was compromised too, attractive redness blooming like roses on his cheeks.

“But vanilla, John! Vanilla!” His pale eyes piercing my ice-cone were full of disdain. “Is this what tough soldiers eat nowadays?”

“Well, the steak and kidney pie flavour was already sold out, I’m afraid.” I replied, giggling at his consternated face.

Young lady jogger dressed in an almost transparent T-shirt passed by us at that very moment. Naturally distracted, I turned after her and whistled under my nose appreciatively.

A little shiny light twinkled somewhere in the azure abyss of the sky.

Suddenly, something hit me. It pushed into me with such force that I flew to the side, crashed down and stroke my arm painfully against the wall of the promenade. My ice-cream cone ended some ten feet from me, smeared in a sticky smudge on the pavement and Sherlock somehow appeared on top of me, wild-eyed and panting heavily.

“Get off!” I screamed furiously. “Sherlock, what…!?”

I wanted to be angry, I wanted to rant… but in that very second, my shout was cut short abruptly. 

What I held for a tiny, harmless light in the sky a moment ago swished down with an unexpected speed and smashed into the concrete few feet from us with ear-piercing ringing. An oblong, slender metallic object – a crutch with an open cuff. The force of an impact sprang it back into the air and the blasted thing bounced along the promenade wall as if it was endowed with a life of its own, leaving scratches and dents on the spot where it fell. Where I stood a few seconds ago, actually. If Sherlock didn’t tear me to the side…

The cold hand of fear seized my breast in a tight grip. I shuddered and emitted a sharp breath.

And then…

Another object, dark, large and heavy, landed three yards from us with an ominous thud. Unlike the crutch, it never moved after that. I stupidly stared at it, registering the dust covered shoes, unnaturally bent legs, torso crooked to the side, blood-streaked face and wide grey eyes which gazed glassily at me from among the mess.

In that instant, that chaotic, surreal feeling of being thrown into a grotesque illusion resurfaced with incredible force.

I couldn’t believe how it all came back to me at that moment. It was St. Bart’s all over again and the pale cheeks, temporal bones striped with blood and wide open glassy eyes transformed itself into the features of another familiar face… I’m ashamed to admit it, but I lost it and threw up. Doctor and a retired soldier and I was not able to do a thing, to take control, I just crouched down on all fours and trembled like a leaf, moaning quietly.

Sherlock, on the other hand, was transformed into the whirlwind of energy. He let go of me and darted up, running at first to the fallen body to check its vitals and then to the assembled group of ogling passers-by who just started to panic and shriek. He bellowed at them like a young bull, deep-tone of his clarion-like voice vibrating through the whole area and gesticulated wildly, barking out orders and bossily organizing the place until the people dispersed, some of them running to the Eye, some standing on guard at various parts of the fresh tragedy, some pulling back and phoning frantically and some whispering among themselves.

Sherlock then returned and knelt down by my side.

“Are you all right?” he asked, staring intently at me.

Still weak in the stomach, I nodded slowly. His crystal irises, frost-coloured but filled by lively inner fire, glittered in front of me. He’s alive, I told myself. He’s alive. That thing was never real and is in the past now. I felt his hand on my shoulder, pressing gently and I yielded to it, sitting down to the wall of a river-bank. Calm down, I whispered to myself, calm down, John, calm down…

I closed my eyes tightly and tried to concentrate on the shaky rhythm of my breath.

Ella’s advice on my inner crises turned out to be useful after a while and this kind of self-hypnosis calmed me down a bit. Feeling a year older, I wiped out cold sweat from my forehead and blinked against an unchanged, passive, oblivious sunlight as if I was waking up from a short unpleasant dream. I carefully looked around.

During my temporary blackout, somebody covered the broken body of the poor wretch with a sheet. I was immensely grateful for that. Flashing lights were visible at the edge of Jubilee Gardens and I recognised the distinct figure of DI Lestrade standing grimly nearby with a group of his colleagues from the squad. They were all staring in one direction, up towards the Eye. Come to think of it, the rest of the crowd was observing something on the Eye too. Uncomprehending this sudden interest in the Ferris wheel in wake of the fresh tragedy, I raised my eyes as well and focused my stare on the big white construction high above me.

I glimpsed him at once and ill or no ill, I was on my feet in an instant, frantic with worry. My mouth opened in shock but I was unable to give out a shout in paranoid fear that it could reach him somehow and make him slip.

The Eye was brought into a complete standstill by now. Capsules full of frightened passengers were hanging on the massive structure like drops of dew on a stem of a flower, blue and transparent in clear summer air. Maintenance ladder placed near the rim of the gigantic wheel encompassed the circumference of the Eye as a thin girdle, miniscule and as frail as a straw in comparison with the rest of the structure. 

And there he was, my mad, mad Sherlock, balancing on the steps of the ladder. He was almost at the same height as the spindle of the Eye, so approximately 200 feet above the ground. How he managed to climb there, why he did it, that all was beyond my comprehension. He looked small and vulnerable up there, a toy for the elements and his black trousers and indigo shirt aggressively flapped against his lean figure as bouts of wind jogged against him. 

Thankfully, he seemed to be descending now. Unable to aid him in any way, I nervously observed him, shaking in agitation.

It seemed to take forever until he reached the boarding platform again. Two fire-trucks and one ambulance called by concerned citizens arrived in between and the place was in mayhem, but Sherlock didn’t take heed to it. He swaggered back to the area with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and lit it showily in a bad James Bond imitation, eyeing us with satisfied smugness.

We both rushed forth to him, Lestrade and me – but I was quicker.

“Have you completely lost your mind?!” I barely restrained myself from grabbing him and shaking some sense into him. “What the heck were you doing up there? Did you want to follow this poor sod into suicide or what??”

“Suicide, John?” Sherlock smiled contemptuously. “This was anything but. The guy was already dead before he was thrown out of the cubicle.”

“What? Is this true?” Lestrade gasped behind my back.

Sherlock nodded slowly: “There are numerous wounds on his head, delivered by a blunt object. A crutch that fell down a moment before him is sticky with blood, it even has some hair adhering to its surface. You do the math, Detective Inspector.”

He blew out a cigarette smoke markedly, in an overdone Greta Garbo style. 

Gnashing my teeth, I plucked the smelly cancer-stick from his lips and stomped on it angrily. Sherlock, unpleasantly awakened from his movie-star impersonation by that act, sullenly frowned down on me.

“That would mean… the man who did it is still up there?” Lestrade’s dark eyes grew wide and alert. “Is that why you stopped the Eye? To trap him there? Sherlock, but what about the other passengers in the cubicle! They are stranded up there with a maniac now!”

“Irresponsible madness!” I echoed his sentiments, blazing in rage. “The man could be subdued and arrested already if the cubicle was allowed to come down! And the passengers safe! What were you thinking, Sherlock!”

“I was thinking that the cubicle was most likely private. As is the case, in fact.” My friend retorted defiantly, crossing the arms over his chest. “And the man in question can’t pose any danger to his surroundings anymore, I’m afraid. From the looks of it, he is deceased too.”

We both startled at this announcement. 

“Dead? Are you sure?” Lestrade blurted out and run his fingers through his spiky crew-cut in frustrated desperation.

“Absolutely. He was most likely poisoned. Even through the wind, the smell of almonds was quite strong around the cubicle. Hydrocyanic acid, I’d say. I would be very careful around that cubicle for a while, Gordon.”

Lestrade cursed under his breath and turned around, marching to his unit in haste.

I felt staggered too: “Jesus! To commit murder at such a place, then to poison yourself! And in such a gruesome manner! That’s so crackers! Why would anyone wish to do that?”

“Maybe a man was bored? And this seemed like a good way to spend time?” Sherlock smiled bitterly, clearly mocking my earlier distrust in his ability to evaluate the dangerous situations properly. “After all, summer is such a perfect season for murder, wouldn’t you say?”

And with this Parthian shot he walked away, following Lestrade and leaving me open-mouthed behind him.


“The name of the victim was Charles Murray. Fifty-six years old, owner of the small-sized enterprise, travel agency and accommodation bureau called “North Sea Express”. He died as a result of severe closed head injury, after being repeatedly hit to the temporal and occipital bones of the skull with a crutch which later was found near the crime-scene. The body was then tossed out of the cubicle of the Eye through the emergency exit, together with the murderous weapon.

The man with whom Murray occupied the private cubicle was identified as Thijs De Vries, a Dutch national permanently residing in Ipswich, Suffolk. Similarly to Murray, De Vries, forty-eight years old, was an owner of the business company specialising in production and sale of the house-interior decorations, especially in antique-style plaster sculptures, busts and plaques. His enterprise had two British affiliated branches, one in Ipswich and the second one in Rotherhithe, London, with the main office residing in Amsterdam. 

The aluminium crutch in question was recognised as the possession of De Vries. Apparently, he killed Murray with it and then, probably during the process of disposing of the body, he stepped on the vial containing the solution of hydrocyanic acid. The concentration of the substance was rather high. Our estimation surmises he was dead in less than two minutes.

The motive for his behaviour and his actions remains unseen and is the part of further investigation into the matter.”

Lestrade, visibly stressed and weary, finished his report to the media.

Occasional flashes of cameras and non-stop dim of whispering voices finally ceased and the crowd slowly dispersed. Only one or two individuals approached DI to ask him further questions.

Sherlock stood by the parked police-van, disinterested in the proceedings and busily browsed the net, his eyes fixated on the screen of his smartphone.

I hesitantly drew closer to him.

It was most stupid of me to loose composure and to treat him so cavalierly earlier. I sincerely promised not to do it anymore, then broke my word at the first opportunity. Which made me look like an ass in comparison with Sherlock who was so supportive and patient with me when all hell broke loose last year. He was the only reason Greg Lestrade still talked to me after my former spouse left one of his officers dead and Sergeant Donovan crippled for life, disappearing into US after that. Thanks to his influence, the investigation of my activities as the possible accomplice was a lot milder than it could be in similar circumstances. Sherlock offered me my former room at 221B Baker Street on his own, sparing me the awkwardness of begging and he put up with the presence of little Sheryl without protests until Harry became her legal guardian.

He bore all that and then I insinuate he is mad…

I bit my lip painfully. 

“What are you up to?” I addressed him with a forcedly cheerful smile in a lame attempt to make him speak. “Doing your research of something?”

“Amsterdam,” responded Sherlock laconically, without taking a glance at me. 

Shit! I really managed to anger him this time…

“Well, the Dutch guy resided there, but I don’t see how it all connects with today’s events, to be honest.”

Sherlock answered me by wordlessly handing me a smartphone. Confused, I looked at the screen and read the list of bizarre and sensational article titles:

Massacre! Couple brutally murdered in Nieuw Sloten!

Cargo ship explodes on Amstel! Ijsselbuurt in panic!

Terror in Noorderpark! Arsonist on the run leaves Volewijck in fear!

Diamonds don’t last forever! Audacious robbery at Coster Diamonds!

Cat among the pigeons! Old lady assaults fellow pensioners at Diemen!

Shots from a rifle accompany a dog attack as Betondorp wakes up!

With my head spinning from all that Daily Mail rubbish, I turned quizzically to Sherlock again, only to find him missing. He stood with his back turned to me, partly hidden in the shadow of the trees of Jubilee Garden and smoked a cigarette without an undue interruption now, lost deep in thought. 

Damn! My reconciliation prospects were looking bleaker and bleaker with every passing minute. 

These things were so raw between us because of radically changed circumstances of our relationship in the last two months. It was in the middle of spring (19-th of April to be exact) that I threw all my earlier cautions, misgivings and self-recrimination to the wind and bluntly asked Sherlock if I could spend the night in his bedroom. He was somewhat taken aback but he said yes. He even managed to finish the chemical experiment he was working at in record time of ten minutes and promptly retreated into his room with me in tow. What ensued was a fairly pleasant and enjoyable activity. Seeing Sherlock’s eager response to it I believed that I healed the rift my wretched marriage left between us and I congratulated myself for my boldness with which I managed to end this Mary fiasco without a big drama or sweat and tears.

It was in the morning that I came to realise my mistake. I opened my eyes unexpectedly and Sherlock, although he put his bossy and self-confident countenance back on immediately, was not entirely able to mask the disappointment and bitterness mirrored on his face in that first minute. And it as was clear as day to me, what he thought at that moment.

He believed I only used him as a cheap substitute for Mary, or some other female lover.

I shouldn’t jump into this in such a gung-ho manner. I should have spoken to him first. But speeches are one area I especially suck at. I am like Ajax, that unhappy warrior who committed suicide under the walls of Troy for the sole reason of not being eloquent enough. I am prepared to do any daring physical task you can bestow on me. Just don’t demand any heartfelt, elegant orations from me.

Because, if you think about it, there’s no way I could ever explain why I tormented Sherlock for such a long time, sticking my abominable wife into his face.

There’s a certain story which ends with the words: “and when the stupid man closed his eyes, he felt naught but moving clouds in his heart.” I could totally relate to the stupid hero of this tale. The confusing medley of contradictory emotions that seized me after Sherlock’s return from the dead swirled in my head like moving clouds and could never be put into words. 

So I just decided to persevere. I continued to appear in Sherlock’s room and showered him with affection. I hoped that in time he will deduce the true nature of my feelings from these acts.

And now this! Bloody hell!

The sound of steps snapped me out of reverie. Lestrade, looking done for today, stopped by Sherlock and discussed something with him. 

Unwilling to be left out of the case, I hurried to them and got behind their backs right on time to hear the DI say: “Nothing more can be done here, I’m afraid. Let’s wrap it. Come on, I’ll give you and John a lift home.”

Sherlock turned to him with a calculating look in his cerulean eyes.

“Can we stop somewhere before you take us to Baker Street?” he asked with a slightly devilish smirk on his lips, some cunning plan evident in his mind. 

“Sure. Where to?” nodded the unsuspecting DI.

“Not far really. Just to Finland Street in Rotherhithe, right next to Greenland Dock. If we take the route through Bermondsey, we can be there in a jiff.” 

Lestrade froze and then shook his head dismissively.

“You want to examine De Vries’s enterprise? But Sherlock, it’s almost 9 pm!” He protested. “We will look into the matter tomorrow, OK? I’ll let you know when and we…”

“Well, don’t blame me if I get there on my own, then. I asked!” retorted Sherlock.

A short pause filled with stunned silence ensued after that. Defiant blue gaze contested against grave and worried brown one.

Finally, with a sigh, Lestrade surrendered and put the car-keys out of his pocket.

“Finland Street it is then. But only for a short while, all right? I don’t intend to spend there all night…”


Our ride through Southwark was uneventful. In no time we found ourselves facing the romantic waters of Greenland Dock. We stood by the little bridge connecting two banks of the small side water-channel and thus two former rows of dock-houses which were rebuilt into apartment houses some time ago and which were now known as Finland Street.

De Vries’s enterprise was located in the building to our right which was placed at the edge of one row, just next to the little bridge. The massive structure contained a large basement serving as a warehouse where De Vries stored his articles of stock.

We approached the house from the side of the dock. Lestrade unlocked the equipment door, artfully hidden in the façade wall at the ground floor level and from there we all descended into the basement. As we stepped off the last stair, my hand brushed against a cord of a ceiling lamp. I pulled it lightly. In the next moment, the bright light flooded the entire area in front of us.

I felt as if I was thrown into the British museum all of a sudden.

The large, nicely reconstructed underground studio was full of antique statues. The copies of every antique work imaginable, made in every size from the tiniest to the very big, filled the shelves on the walls, long benches placed near the sides of the room and even the separate pedestals. Two biggest ones were situated in the middle of the warehouse, on a makeshift podium. Beardless, decadently naked Dionysus wearing a wreath of flowers and holding a cup of wine in his left and the long metal thyrsus in his right hand was one of them. He was paired with an equally naked but stern looking young archer adorned with a laurel-wreath, stretching a metal bow. 


His presence here startled me – although if I paused to think about it, it made sense that a collection like this would have at least one Apollo among its statues. But I was not entirely rational here. Feelings of unease and curiosity, raised during my visit in Mycroft’s office, awakened in me anew.

And so, while Sherlock begun to examine the place in earnest, I drew closer to the central podium and contemplated over the sculpture.

“Do you know who that is?” Lestrade, not sure what exactly are we doing here and unwilling to join a human dynamo currently prancing about a warehouse, appeared by my side.

“Uh… Apollo, I think. We had such a statue at the university when I was still a medic. They probably ascribed some healing properties to this god, those ancient Greek dudes…”

Sherlock, passing by us at that very moment, overheard my comment and laughed derisively.

“Healing properties, John? Not really. Do you see the arrows fastened onto Apollo’s waist? They are poisonous. Their touch infects you with a bubonic plague. That’s why this god was revered by the ancient healers - out of fear not out of respect!” 

Typical Sherlock. Always wants to have the last word on things. But I won’t let myself be beaten on the concept of Greek mythology by a guy who deleted the Solar System, for God’s sake!

“Maybe he was dangerous, but he was certainly not considered a bad guy in the long run.” I protested. “Didn’t he preside over light, over music and poetry… over intellect, in fact?”

“Well, first and foremost, he was known as Loxias, a dark and gloomy interpreter of ambiguous oracles.” Sherlock, now fully immersed into our quarrel, halted right in front of me, staring me down. “Haven’t you ever heard of Delphi?”

He made a sweeping gesture with his hand, preaching to me: “The Thriae, the trio of bee goddesses, gave Apollo the ability to interpret information obtained from signs in nature. Those bees in the form of nymphs were the ones who taught him the art of divination. Possessing their gifts, Apollo was able to actually predict the future and…”

“Hey!” Lestrade interrupted us immediately, having enough of our natter. “Can you save your argument for later? Sherlock, you promised me we will only stay here for a short while! So move your ass and resume whatever you were doing before! And John, I see a huge book on Greek mythology over there on the shelf. Take it and read about Apollo if you find him interesting, just don’t slow Sherlock down in his investigations. We overstayed our stay here beyond any tolerable measure, as far as I am concerned.”

Stunned by this rant from an otherwise stoic Lestrade, we mutely exchanged glances. 

And in that second, as is the habit of these electronic appliances, Lestrade’s mobile-phone rang.

DI answered the call, but having some problems with the signal here under ground, he lowered the phone onto his chest and addressed us: “I’ll go outside for a while. I hope we will be finished here when I return.”

He climbed the thin metal stairs and went out to the street. We could hear the muffled sound of his conversation from outside.

Properly chastised, we returned to our previous activities. Sherlock busied himself with the close examination of collected wares while I approached the shelf placed next to the staircase, containing the book on mythology. I removed the bulky tome off its place, paged through it until I found Apollo and immersed myself into reading.

Some ten minutes later I shut the book again, thoroughly disgusted. My head was spinning. It was beyond my comprehension how this bloodthirsty being could ever be considered the god of light. The massacre of Niobe’s children. The flaying of Marsyas. But above all, the killing of Hyacinthus. Apollo was supposed to be a clairvoyant and yet he couldn’t foresee that a disc thrown by him would be deflected onto his lover’s head, killing him instantly? What a shitty bastard!

Soft, almost inaudible screech coming from above interrupted my musings. I looked up absentmindedly and was surprised to see the door of the warehouse closing.

“Greg?” I uncertainly called out.

Unexpectedly, the door was slammed shut with an excessive force. Keys rattled in the lock hastily, imprisoning us in a studio.

I stiffened for a second. Then I was up on the stairs and I shook the metal panel of the door furiously, but it would not open or yield to my power in any other way. Frustrated, I kicked it, but even that did not move the blasted barrier which cut off our way to freedom. We were really and truly trapped. 

“John!” Sherlock’s deep voice forced me to look over my shoulder. Sherlock stood at the base of the stairs and waved at me, pointing his finger to the other side of the room. “John, leave it! There’s another exit! Come on, we’ll get out through that!”

I leapt from the stairs to his side and together we raced alongside all the statues to the wall opposite us.

There was another entrance there indeed. But it was secured with a trellis composed of firm steel bars on which a heavy patent lock glittered. It seemed downright impossible to pass through it. I gnashed my teeth in helpless ire at the sight and when we came nearer, I grasped the bars with both hands. I tried to wrest them from the hinges, but they were a bit too solid for that.

Still, while I was grappling with this obstacle, I noticed a slight metallic gloss in a corridor which lay behind bars. I leaned forward and squinted into the darkness. 

“Keys.” I heard Sherlock say behind me, confirming my impression.

The set of keys hung on a hook on the side-wall, just a short distance from us. But even that distance proved to be an insuperable problem for me. No matter how far I stretched out my hand, I could not reach it.

“Shit! Won’t make it!” I breathed out, my disenchantment obvious. I turned back to Sherlock… only to stare in shock when I found him removing his shoe.

“Are you sure you should be doing that right now?” I asked, incredulous.

Instead of an answer, Sherlock rose from the floor with a shiny leather Oxford shoe in hand. He leaned against bars as I did before him and raising his long arm, he neatly took the set of keys off their hook using the shoe like some sort of a big spoon in which the keys remained safely caught. Accomplishing this feat as if it was no big deal, he pulled his shoe-holding hand back out of the trellis and handed me his catch with only the tiniest hint of smugness apparent in the corners of his mouth.

“Show-off,” I growled fondly and ruffled his dark black curls.

“Unlock it,” he responded, smiling openly now and hunkered down to put his shoe back on. I complied and in no time we were free from our impromptu prison, heading out through the damp cellar-corridor.

We emerged from the building via the automatic door facing the quiet street shrouded in greenery. Running like crazy, we dashed round the corner of the house and reached the little bridge by which our odyssey originally begun. Even from the distance I could discern the loud whirr of the motor boat. Just as we arrived at the water-margin, the sleek white body of a dynamic-shaped vessel detached itself from the wooden pier and promptly headed to the middle of the dock, taking up speed, leaving only disturbed, rippling water in its wake.

At that time it was quite dark outside. Nevertheless, the street-lamps shining at the bank of the dock cast enough light for me to discern four silhouettes on board of the boat. Three were dark and shady all over – men wearing black balaclavas over their faces to make them unrecognisable. The fourth, obviously struggling with the others, was bare-headed with short-cropped greyish hair. Silver Fox.

I recognised him in an instant and my stomach sank into my boots.

“Greg.” I shuddered. “They have taken Greg!”

Sherlock cursed loudly and grabbed me by the hand. He then stormed through the bridge like a galloping horse. Having no other choice but to run after him, I followed suit.

We sprinted along the line of houses on the other side, flying by the edge of the former dock. The level of water was unusually high, its dark surface glistened only a few inches beneath our feet. I often glanced at it over my shoulder, trying to observe the movements of the boat in the twilight. But it was futile. As soon as we reached the big building towering over the top-end of the dock, the stern of kidnapper’s vessel disappeared somewhere near the centre of the opposite bank. 

“It’s too late.” I gasped, breathing heavily.

“No, it’s not! Go!” Sherlock yanked me by the hand and continued running along the narrower side of the dock, through the South Sea Street, dragging me behind him. I could not comprehend what he wanted to achieve that way but I didn’t protest and tailed him closely.

At last, the embankment of the Thames spread in front of us. 

And from it, like an elegant long arm, a sleek construction of the roofed boardwalk stretched into the river. A structure I have completely forgotten about: Greenland Pier.

Glimpsing this unexpected sight, it started to dawn on me what Sherlock had in mind and I scanned the area of the embankment hungrily. The pier itself didn’t seem to be in use presently, for its mooring-bollards stood empty. But next to it, right by the small maintenance barrack, the safety metal fence gaped open and thus kept clear the way to the small staircase which led into the waves of the Thames. Blue, aerodynamically shaped jetboat rocked on the water where stairs met the water-level.

Noticing a jetboat, I stiffened in alarm. I cast a hesitant side-glance at Sherlock. My sense of foreboding did not disappoint me – Sherlock grinned from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.

“Oh, hell!” I murmured.


My fears proved to be justified – as soon as we drove forward riding a jetboat, the water ejected from under the hull of our vessel drenched our trousers and backs so thoroughly that not a dry thread remained on us.

Holding on to Sherlock for dear life, pressed to his back tightly, I spit out some excessive liquid and spluttered: “Are you sure we shouldn’t call the police instead?”

For an answer, Sherlock vaguely waved his hand in the direction of the river-bank. 

I looked there and got his point. The sleek boat of the kidnappers just burst out of ship-lock of the South Dock Marina which was the only way out of the Greenland Dock too. We managed to intercept them. 

Their craft quickly reached the hypothetical middle of the river and headed south-east, trying to sail around the Isle of Dogs. Lestrade’s compact figure was distinctly visible in it, more so because exactly at that very moment a black-clad gorilla sitting next to Lestrade slapped him viciously. My blood boiled at the sight and I leaned forward, determinedly gluing myself to Sherlock.

“Lead on!”


Our trip down the river was quite trying. Waves were rough and the jetboat led by Sherlock’s inexperienced hand leaped through them awkwardly, rattling us like marionettes with every impact against the water.

When we almost crashed into the buoy, I screamed furiously: “Sherlock, these guys are maybe headed to Folkestone, for all we know! Could you try NOT to kill us before we get there?!”

“Shut up, John and don’t disturb the driver!” bellowed Sherlock angrily in return.

“Oh, you!” I couldn’t move much and so I just nudged him with my pelvis to convey my exasperation.

That was when something snapped suspiciously. In an instant, I felt much colder and wetter than before – not to mention the considerable draft around my backside. 

“feck!” I roared in horrified disbelief.

“W-What’s happened?” Noticing my distress, Sherlock stuttered in alarm.

“My belt broke! I can’t believe it! The very day I’m going commando!”


The jetboat was propelled into the air with an aggressive force. And just like that, it landed into the big blotch of light cast by the huge tourist boat passing nearby. The tourist boat whose deck was swarming with females, I might add. They were all outside, making an effort to photograph the Canary Wharf or the bowl-shaped O2 building - and obtained another exciting view to that unexpectedly.

Before we managed to escape from the traitorous flood of light, I heard high-pitched squeaks, hysterical laughter and the clicks from at least two hundred cameras thundering above me.

“This can’t be happening! Sherlock, I will kill you!” I hollered once again. “Did you do it on purpose?! My ass will be all over Facebook come the morning!”

The body beneath my hands trembled lightly. The bastard was laughing!

“Well, they came here to admire the beauty of British nature too, I suppose, so…” His voice, muffled with suppressed guffaw, resonated dully.

Outraged by his merriment at my expense, I stretched out and bit him into the shoulder maliciously.

“Ouch! What was that for? Cut that out or we’ll really crash!”

I let go of him at once. Not to obey his command but to call his attention to something I noticed. 

“Sherlock, these assholes are turning to the strand! They will get ashore in a minute!”

“Yes, I see them.” Sherlock nodded, sounding a bit grim all of a sudden. “It’s Silvertown then. They chose a very fitting location for their hiding place, don’t you think?”

I couldn’t agree more. The place was a site of former docks too, but long abandoned and dilapidated, full of shabby barracks and dubious cabins in various state of decay. Part of the area was cleared up for redevelopment and slightly resembled the surface of the moon with its barren landscape. Still, right next to it the dun buildings with blind windows towered over Thames – the very picture of some freaky nightmare.

We landed by the impromptu pier made out of some cement cube rising from the river. The motor boat was anchored by the bollard there.

As we jumped to the dry land again, I fixed my trousers back on immediately. Meanwhile, Sherlock sidled up to the permanently wet brickwork of the riverbank and carefully peeked over it.

I joined him there and whispered: “What now? Do we alert the police that these guys are hiding here?”

Sherlock pressed his lips together and shook his head: “If they are cornered here, they could kill Greg in panic or anger. So this is absolutely out of the question.”

“Well, what do you intent to do, then? Do you have a plan?”

Sherlock hesitated. After that, he turned to me with his eyes narrowed in thought.

“I think there’s only one way to do it…”


Story continued in the next post...

Last edited by ukaunz (July 5, 2016 10:24 am)


     Thread Starter

July 5, 2016 12:33 am  #14

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

In a few minutes, after a heated argument and a short tracking of foot-prints, we finally halted in front of the large metal gate leading to the hall covered in corrugated iron.

Sherlock carefully positioned himself and looked at me. Very uneasy, but determined, I nodded in approval silently.

At this signal, Sherlock raised both hands high above his head and kicked the gate open.

“I’m here to negotiate! Please, listen to me!” He called into the darkness inside, his voice strong and firm and his articulation slow and precise: “I’m not with the police. My name is Sherlock Holmes and I serve as the private consultant for various clients. I came here to talk to you about the conditions under which you are willing to release an officer who is currently in your hands. I will act discreetly to fulfil it – just name them!”

For a first few seconds, no response was coming. Only our own breath, so loud in the complete stillness around us, disturbed the cold night air.

But suddenly it rustled inside and in the next moment, bracket lamps illuminated the whole interior.

The hall which stretched in front of us was evidently some fish-canning factory that has fallen into disuse. Long metal counter which previously served as an assorting line stood to our left and behind it, an ugly concrete wall leered at us. This wall, however, only went to the middle of the hall. The second part of the hall, placed to our right, was an open space leading maybe to some storage area at the rear side of the building.

Three men and their captive awaited us inside. Two muscular gorillas with their faces still hidden behind black balaclavas sat on a makeshift bench in the open part of this place, slightly behind the concrete wall, but very much visible. One of them demonstratively held Lestrade by his shoulder to let us know he is completely under their power. Greg, pale and bruised in the face, was forced to kneel in front of them with both hands painfully twisted behind his back and secured by his own handcuffs. He stared at us with distressed but defiant dark eyes. By his side, a small brown crate was situated.

Third kidnapper, also masked, assumed a wary pose behind a counter. He stood at attention and bristled, aiming a nasty looking FN Five-seven at Sherlock.

“Sherlock Holmes?” His voice was smooth and carried a distinct foreign accent. “I know the name. You are that notorious London detective, aren’t you?”

Sherlock didn’t move a muscle nor spoke, but only acknowledged the fact with the subtle nod.

The man looked at our drenched, dripping, pathetic figures for a while and then twitched his gun to the side, indicating Lestrade with it: “Do you know this policeman well? Well enough to enter his office if necessary? Do you have access there?”

“Yes.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes slightly but responded without hesitation. “Yes, I have.”

“A crutch.” The man hissed at him. “You will bring me the crutch.”

Sherlock raised his eyebrows and blinked: “Pardon me?”

“I saw you at the Eye, you were there. The crutch that almost fell at you from the cubicle – I want it. It is currently somewhere at this man’s office. I don’t care how you get it, just bring it here. And no word to the police or else…”

He pointed his finger at the small brown crate threateningly.

“Semtex. Try to double-cross me and I’ll tie the officer to it and let him fly, do you understand?”

Sherlock threw a frowning glance at the packet and pressed his lips together.

“You will have the crutch before 9 o’clock AM tomorrow. I’ll bring it to you as it is, unchanged and undisturbed” He replied firmly, with absolute conviction.

He then slowly lowered his hands and made a slight gesture in the direction of Lestrade.

“The DI has his phone on him. He has me listed as SH among his contacts. When I will be back with the crutch, I’ll call him. You will take him out after that – unhurt – and bind him to the railing outside, leaving him alone there, so that I can glimpse him before I hand you the crutch. If I don’t see him alive and kicking, the crutch will end at the bottom of the Thames… do you accept this deal?”

I cringed when I heard his bold words. I stared at the masked up guy nervously. But he didn’t protest, just stated dryly: “I agree. It’s a deal.”

“All right.” Sherlock turned on his heal and headed back to the river. “Come on, John, we have some work to do…”


We managed to complete the same crazy ride through Thames once more.

When we landed near the Greenland Pier at last, I was dead tired, hungry, dirty and probably looked like a drowned dog. Sherlock – all dishevelled, wet and wild-eyed - wasn’t much better off. Still, he paid no heed to his pains and broke into an energetic walk back towards Finland Street the moment he stepped back on dry ground. Too exhausted to do anything else, I followed him docilely.

As we walked away from the edge of the swiftly flowing water, a young man – probably the owner of the jetboat we “borrowed” – flew out of maintenance barrack and looked as if he wanted to yell at us… but one glimpse of our gloomy, awful countenance sufficed to stop him. He chickened out, shrunk back and only stared at us with an open mouth. I gave him a wide innocent grin but he didn’t seem to appreciate it. So I shrugged my shoulders and banished him from my thoughts easily.

We passed along the Greenland Dock and soon reached the warehouse of De Vries where our plight was born some two hours ago.

I have thought we’ll take Lestrade’s car and be off right away but Sherlock unexpectedly headed back to this quiet building. It surprised me, but I did not ask needless questions and just moved after him.

We found the underground studio in the same state we have left it – even the lamp over the entrance was still dully lit as if nothing had happened here in between.

Sherlock drew forward to the podium standing in the middle of the room and reached out for the statue of Dionysus. After a minute of careful manoeuvring, he succeeded in taking god’s thyrsus out of his plaster hand. He then put this decorative metal rod on the long bench placed by the wall of the room, pulled some black plastic wrapping from the sack visible under the bench and neatly wrapped the object into it. When he was finished, he beckoned to me and we finally left but not before we switched off the lights and locked the warehouse behind us.

Carrying the thyrsus over his shoulder, Sherlock then headed to the Lestrade’s car parked in the vicinity. He put the metal thing into it and took perch in the passenger’s seat, clearly expecting me to drive. I slipped behind the wheel and looked at him in expectation.

“Where to? Shall we go to Scotland Yard right away? Or would we stop at Baker Street first? I’d like to change into something dry before we appear at Greg’s office, to be honest…”

“Yes, that’s a good idea.” Sherlock agreed without further ado.

Very much relieved, I kicked the car into gear.


In the following half an hour we became human again. Sherlock used the bathroom first and dressed after that, while I relished the hot water under the shower.

When I came out with the towel cavalierly worn over both shoulders, I found Sherlock engaged in a weird activity. He cut an orange in half there in the kitchen and was busy fishing pips out of it, placing it into the white envelope carefully. I raised my brows at him awaiting an explanation, but he evaded my unspoken question by pointing out that I am distracting him in my current state and that I should hurry instead, for we are busy. Remembering Greg, I complied quickly, but not without a wide smile stretched across my face.

Afterwards, there came the hardest nut to crack. New Scotland Yard.

When we appeared at the entrance of the MET headquarters in Victoria Street, looking respectable and dependable save the wrapped up thyrsus Sherlock ostentatiously held in front of himself, we were let in without any big problems. We were almost regarded as the permanent fixtures there at MET, so the night porter just greeted us politely and returned to the issue of the Sun placed at his little desk.

Things went smoothly thus far and yet I cringed in torturous fear inwardly. The idea of Sally Donovan possibly having a night duty in Greg’s office scared me to no end. I knew I would be forced to deal with it if it came to that - but this certainty didn’t ease my worry in the least. The thought of encountering a woman whom my wife has left with crippling injury was terrifying still.

The rock of the size of Gibraltar fell from my heart when the sliding doors to Greg’s division opened slowly and revealed Philip Anderson sitting lonely inside the bureau.

Once again, I succeeded to escape from her. For now.

Anderson was very surprised when we entered but his face lit like the three hundred watt light-bulb at the sight of Sherlock. His hero worship kicked in with usual force and in an instant, he was all over him, eagerly asking if he could aid him in any way.

Sherlock, completely immersed into the role of the paranoid detective now, sat down heavily into Anderson’s chair, propped the thyrsus against his desk and pulled the prepared envelope out from his pocket. He handed it to Anderson with a breathless request: “I need to speak with Gaston right away! This abominable thing was delivered to me with the usual correspondence today!”

Puzzled, Anderson took the little parcel from Sherlock and overturned it. The orange pips, five in number, naturally fell out. Shocked at the meaning implied by them, Anderson gasped out loud: “Oh!”

“Yes.” Sherlock nodded in a grim resignation. “The message from Moriarty’s organisation. They are threatening me again and I am inclined to leave the town for a while to avoid any trap they have possibly in store for me. But I must talk to Guido first, he ought to know about this. Can you contact him? I tried to call him earlier but he is not responding.”

Anderson’s face mirrored an acute embarrassment. He awkwardly shuffled his feet and confessed: “I called the boss twice during the last hour but he didn’t pick it up. Maybe he turned it to mute for some reason. I’m very sorry, Sherlock.”

During their conversation, I was rambling around the office nonchalantly and surveyed the room together with Lestrade’s private cubicle next door. Glimpsing the objects from today’s investigation, including the crutch, scattered over the table there in their transparent plastic covers and overhearing Philip’s last words, I chuckled in amusement: “Maybe he sleeps at night from time to time, don’t you think? Some of us do, you know?”

At my remark, Sherlock lifted his pale eyes, disconcertingly green like the surface of the marchland and stared hard at me. I licked my lips with provocative slowness and winked at him.

Sherlock sharply averted his face to the side, shook his head and addressed Anderson again:

“Well, can’t help it then. Tell Lestrade about this disaster yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, I can’t risk it to stay in London until that time. Or… can I borrow some pen and paper from you? I’ll leave Lestrade a message at least and explain the situation to him.”

“Yes, no problem.” Anderson, clearly worried, handed both requested items to Sherlock and moved back a bit, keeping a vigil over him while he was writing.

I emitted a very dry, throaty cough.

No reaction from Philip. Hypnotised by Sherlock’s presence, he watched him as in a trance, blind to everything around him.

I repeated the cough, amplifying its noisiness this time and cursed hoarsely: “Shit! It looks like I’ve caught cold near the Eye! And nasty one at that! Do you have some tea at hand by chance, Philip? I could do with a cuppa right now…”

“Uh?” Anderson raised his head and blinked at me blearily. I pointed at his half-drunk cup with question in my eyes.

“Oh, of course! I have the fresh kettle made in the kitchen. Come, I’ll pour myself the new one too.”


We retired into the kitchen promptly, abandoning Sherlock for the moment.

“How is Sally?” I asked quietly while we were sipping the sweet, refreshing brew.

Philip shrugged his shoulders and sighed: “She acts like the old Sally we knew. Outwardly, you wouldn’t say anything is amiss. But her hand ….the hand is almost completely useless and it gets no better… you know?”

I squeezed the cup in my fingers tightly and bowed my head. We drunk out tea in tense silence after that and the long minutes stretched into eternity until Sherlock liberated me from the unpleasant situation by peeking into the kitchen and announcing that he is finished.

Anderson saw us to the entrance and then returned to resume working. I have warmed up to the man in the last two years, but he was a hopeless detective indeed. He never noticed that the wrapped up object Sherlock carried in his hand became shorter and bulkier in shape during our short visit in the bureau.


The atmosphere in the car changed subtly when we got into it again. It was riddled with uneasy feeling even through our way here but now it seemed to be much thicker, more dangerous, as if an ominous cloud descended onto us. I didn’t like it one bit.

Sherlock resumed the place behind the wheel this time and drew into Silvertown at maximum speed, as if all the devils from hell rode at our tail. That’s why I felt as if no time at all passed between the moment we left the Victoria Street and the moment we sighted the ugly barracks of the dilapidated docks caught in our headlights.

Adrenaline pumped through my veins with such power I was barely aware of the fact that the car has now stopped and Sherlock is calling the kidnappers. I only snapped out of it when the gate of the largest hall opened swiftly and two muscular brutes escorted Lestrade out of the building, handcuffed him to the industrial guard-rail surrounding the nearest hut and left him there while they retreated back into their hiding-place. For no particular reason, the sight made my stomach constrict painfully and I had to swallow around the big dumpling that appeared in my throat all of a sudden.

When Sherlock threw the door to the car open, I reached out for him on impulse and splayed my hand on his chest, exactly over the spot where the old surgical scar lingered, masked by Sherlock’s clothing.

“Sherlock.” I managed to get out despite the fact that every bit of moisture disappeared out of my mouth unexpectedly, leaving it as dry as sandpaper. “When we’ll be inside… be careful, OK?”

Sherlock gave me an odd look: “We? You are not going in.”

“Oh…says who?”

Sherlock squirmed impatiently and avoiding my eyes, tried to speak around the subject: “Just consider, John. You can sneak up to Greg and help him to break free while I’ll be dealing with these people inside. It’s much more rational that way...”

“feck rational!” I hissed.

I seized Sherlock’s wrist in a steely grip and turned his face to me with my free hand, forcing the eye-contact. I then proclaimed, emphasising every word: “Greg is my friend, that’s true, but you are my priority, Sherlock and that won’t ever change! So I am going in with you – that’s not negotiable! If you think you will expose yourself to danger while I’ll just idle away somewhere, you don’t know you man!”

Visible shadow of distress flickered in his eyes. He pursed his lips thoughtfully. Yet faced with my fierce determination, he was unable to oppose me. At the end, he leaned against the car-seat and flung his head back, staring at the ceiling grimly. Then he nodded: “All right, we will go together. And now listen to me, John – it is very likely that as we go in, they would grab and subdue us. If that happens, let them. Don’t struggle and yield to them. Will you do that for me?”

“I will, yes.”

“Come on then. We must not let them wait.”

We climbed out of the car and set out to the dark hall. Sherlock held the crutch in front of his chest reverently as if it was some bizarre relic to worship.

Greg started when we appeared in front of the half-open gate and called after us softly, but we paid him no heed. We steeled ourselves and entered the dark interior.

And just as Sherlock predicted, we were immediately grabbed from behind.

Meaty paws seized me and dragged me through the room, until I was bent over the long metal counter I noticed by my previous visit. The loud click sounded near me and in the next moment I found myself handcuffed against the rail running around the perimeter of the counter. Honouring the word given to Sherlock, I didn’t offer any resistance to this treatment.

Loud rustle was audible behind my back, accompanied by curses in the foreign language. After that, Sherlock’s deep calm voice cut through the darkness: “Is this really necessary? We brought you the thing you requested, after all.”

The light-switch crackled somewhere to my right. And just like that, bright light flooded the entire area of the old hall.

One of the huge gorillas held Sherlock by the throat, thick fingers digging into that frail, milky white column with abandon. Yet Sherlock did not fight, merely looked at our captors with contempt. The wrapped up crutch lay on the ground by the tips of his shoes.

The leader of our captors loitered about the centre of the room. Noticing him, Sherlock gave him a disgusted glance and kicked the crutch to him.

“Take it and leave us alone. I don’t care for any of your shit so I won’t raise an alarm. I will free the policeman only after you are safely away. Now go!”

Man lifted the fallen object with caution, something akin to suspicion evident in his body language.

“You are very eager, aren’t you?” He drawled. “Why do you want us to be off so quickly, I wonder?”

And with these words, he tore down the black plastic cover from the offending crutch.

He raised this aluminium rod to the eye-level and minutely examined its grip. In the following moment, he raised the edge of his balaclava unexpectedly. Unusually pale, almost aristocratic face flanked with black beard and neat moustache slipped from under the mask, coupled with the pair of very dark, fiery eyes. The man narrowed those eyes and inspected the grip and the cuff again. He then clasped the grip into his palm firmly and swiftly screwed it off from the rest of the crutch.

The tension in the room was unbearable. Two gorillas guarding Sherlock whooped in excitement a bit. Strange premonition whispered into my ear that all this proceeds too smoothly for it to be real. Ands so I was not even surprised when the pale face of the leading kidnapper turned absolutely stony after he looked into the severed grip.

The bearded bloke pierced Sherlock with the blazing glare right after.

“So you have decided to double-cross me all the same.” He ascertained in a sing-song voice. He walked up to Sherlock and thrust the empty grip practically into his face, observing his reaction like a skulking vulture: “Was that your plan all along, Mr. Great Detective? To take what is ours then scare us off with some baloney? So that we would run away quickly without checking out first if the ware is in its place?”

Sherlock skimmed the empty shell of the handle mutely. He stood without the slightest move, much more rigid than before and visibly shaken by this sudden twist. Yet his voice sounded calm and self-assured: “Pardon me, but that is not true. I have brought you the crutch in the same state it was in when I took it from the DI’s office. I did not meddle with it, I...”


The force of the strike wrenched Sherlock’s face to the side. Subsequently, the gorilla holding him twisted his hands behind his back tautly.

“Hey! He’s telling you the truth! Let him go!” I screamed in terror from the other side of the room.

The bearded bloke gave me an ugly look and started to pace the area like a tiger kept in the cage. The gun sticking from behind his waistband glistened ominously and his hands shook as if he was at the edge of the nervous breakdown.

But in the next second, he was composed and cold like ice once again. He halted in front of Sherlock and addressed him in the mellow, friendly tone that was so fake it forced me to shudder.

“You know what, Detective? I forgive you. I am not a vengeful kind of guy, you see? I’ll set you and the police officer free, safe and sound, without as much as lifting a finger on you... but only if you comply with another request from me. The last one, I assure you.”

The kidnapper put a slim hand on the arm of the gorilla: “Release him.”

And when his accomplice shoved Sherlock to the side in anger, letting him loose, he raised the crutch slowly and offered it to the detective. Clearly puzzled, Sherlock accepted it. The bearded Satan grinned from ear to ear at that and instructed him, relishing every word: “Now you will kill your friend, Dr. Watson, with it.”

Sherlock froze and even from the distance, I saw that his face resumed an ashen colour. My heart leapt in my chest wildly. It then begun to strike against my ribcage in painful pulses.

“I probably must specify it for you, so listen: it’s between you and him. You will end him or you will never leave this place alive. But consider – wouldn’t that be an enormous waste of your talents? It would, it’s evident. So... aim for the head, all right? Hit him the hardest you can until I tell you to stop. The sooner we have this mess behind us, the better.”

Sherlock did not respond nor changed his stiff posture, he merely stared into space blankly, clutching the aluminium rod in a white-grip.

And afterwards – unbelievably – he slowly turned to me, holding the crutch in his fist. His face bathed in sweat and he looked stricken. Shadows cast by sharp angles of his cheeks lengthened. His hollow eyes met mine and he shook his head faintly.

The men surrounding us laughed uproariously. Our main torturer took stand by the counter to enjoy the show and his gorillas resumed the place at their seats in the open area to my left with similar intent.

Sherlock moved towards me and slightly raised his clutch-toting hand.

I nestled against the counter, almost catatonic with fear and shock. Cold shivers rattled me and as everything went blurry, the series of disjointed visions flashed through my mind reeling off before me like the scenes from the movie.

Sherlock, naked and sated after our lovemaking, laying his curly head on my shoulder. Pliant and trusting as a child, filling me with all kinds of sweet pleasure.

Apollo made of white marble, majestic and cold, stretching a bow and following an invisible target with his blind eyes.

An illustration of Hyacinthus in the bulky tome. Young boy’s body thrown into the dust, the stream of blood rolling down his skull and being thirstily sucked by the scorched earth underneath him.

And Mycroft’s malicious smirk and poignant speech, his all-knowing look fixed on me.

“Don’t succumb to him, John. He’s a cruel god.”

I gasped audibly and returned to the present, trying to steel myself for the inevitable. I realised that I always knew this was meant to happen one day. I didn’t foolishly believe that my dealings with Mary will go unpunished. The resentment had to be there, it simply had to dwell inside of Sherlock for a long time – and now it was allowed to flow out, unbridled.

So I will finally pay for all the pain and suffering I caused him through the years.

Like Niobe and Marsyas. They dealt with their god too arrogantly – and it was their hubris that killed them, just like it would kill me in a little while. And I would deserve every bit of it, since he pointedly asked me not to come – and I did not listen.

Sherlock wholly raised up his arm now. He hesitated for a second and then swung it in my direction with devastating force.

I instinctively shut up my eyes.

The blast came without warning. It was so powerful, it literally lifted me up and threw me against the counter in such a manner that I managed to break down the rusty rail running around its perimeter. Falling down to the ground unceremoniously like a rotten apple, I shrieked out in surprise and pain and abruptly opened my eyes once more.

I blinked in confusion. It was a very different room that surrounded me all of a sudden. Huge pieces of corrugated iron were bitten out of the roof and walls of the hall, their debris covering the entire ground inside. Clouds of black smoke surged out of the holes created that way and to my right the blazing inferno was speedily consuming the entire side of the old building. The open space surrounded by flames looked churned up as if the bomb fell on it. I tried not to think about the fate of two gorillas who sat there mere moments ago. I had no time for it anyway since I was coughing roughly, almost choking on it. The air was thick and all but unbreathable, threatening me with smoke-inhalation.

But my personal safety was of little significance to me at that time. For in that instant I glimpsed Sherlock and my heart just stopped beating.

He lay on his back with lapels of his Belstaff splayed to both sides and didn’t move. At the front-part of his white shirt, a dark red blot was gradually expanding.

I yelled in heart-wrenching desperation.

Trembling like a leaf, I scrambled back to my feet and pulled the handcuff off the broken rail.

However, strange loud din disturbed me unexpectedly. As in a dream, I observed the bearded figure with blood streaked face emerging from among some overturned shelves at the far end of the counter. Emitting the roar of absolute rage, the man ran to Sherlock swiftly and kicked my unconscious friend into the temple. I started. Screaming in return, I quickly lifted the piece of debris wallowing near me and threw it after the attacker. The metal shamble hit him into the back accurately and forced him to snap around.

Red eyes, mad like raging bull’s, met mine. The man roared for the last time and immediately went after me, his fingers twisted into claws reaching for my throat with murderous intent.

Still, he never made it. I clearly noticed the moment in which he stiffened, his eyes bulging out of his sockets. His mouth opened helplessly and as he gave out a short cough, it filled with abundant pink foam. I barely had time to catch his falling body into my arms and to gently lay him down. He was in his last throes already and in but a second, he breathed out and went absolutely still. There was nothing I could do to save him.

Sick to my stomach, I could only look at the bloodied piece of the broken rail, twisted upwards like a snake poised for an attack, which we both managed to overlook and which pierced his jugular vein mercilessly as he run onto it in his mindless ire.

Staggering forward through the black fog, I reached for Sherlock and knelt by his side, touching him with shaking fingers.

Incredible relief raked through my body when I felt his pulse beating strongly and when I ascertained that no bone of his was broken. The injury visible on his chest was only a flesh-wound caused by the shrapnel which pierced Sherlock’s skin in the moment of explosion. We were both incredibly lucky. I thanked all the saints in heaven for such a close shave and I threw Sherlock’s heavy frame over my shoulder, carrying him out to save us both from suffocation.

Lestrade was almost frantic by the time I appeared, floundering by the metal fence like a trapped rabbit. He cried out in relief when he spotted us and exclaimed: “John! John! What the hell happened? Sherlock… is he injured? And you? Are you all right? Tell me, for God’s sake!”

I put Sherlock down to the soft grass and checked his pulse once again. Content with his state, I sat next to him cross-legged and leaned against the pole of the fence, grinning at the DI.

“Oh, everything is fine, Greg. I had fantastic time in there. I love the smell of semtex in the morning and these guys offered me aplenty. Probably not English, but ideal hosts anyway….”

Greg stared at me as if I had lost my mind. Somewhere in a distance, the sirens of the fire-fighting trucks started blaring in earnest.


“Uh, I’m with the force for twenty years now but I never ever witnessed such zoo before.” Greg resumed a seat in his private cubicle with a deep sigh. Afterwards, he lifted a steaming cuppa from the table and took a soothing sip with deep relish.

We were back in his office at Scotland Yard, absolutely wrung out after the excitement of last night and the subsequent investigations that lasted until noon. We burrowed into comfortable chairs and rested there a bit. Greg and I, we were decorated by a redoubtable set of bruises, while Sherlock sported the white bandage on his head and on his chest which was visible through his partly unbuttoned bloodied shirt.

“What I don’t get is the reason behind these kamikaze’s actions. What the heck did they expect to find in that hollow crutch? Do you have any idea about that, Sherlock?”

Lestrade’s question was merely rhetorical, of course. For Sherlock was already busy browsing the net on his smartphone. Soon, he found the article he was looking for and showed it to me and Greg triumphantly. I found myself unable to supress a faint tremor when I recognised the face of our late kidnapper at once.

“Three weeks ago, an audacious robbery took place at Coster Diamonds, the famous diamond cutting factory located in Amsterdam,” explained Sherlock. “The consignment of the precious South-African uncut diamonds was stolen and three employees responsible for its despatch were kidnapped together with their car. Two men were later found dead, strangled, at the outskirts of the town. The third man, Simon Nijmeijer, captured on this photograph, remained missing.”

“Now, it is my theory that a gang of five people in total were responsible for the crime. With the exception of Nijmeijer and his two butchers, Murray and De Vries were involved in it too. De Vries was responsible for stashing the diamonds in a safe place while Murray helped to get the criminals out of Amsterdam and into another country through his “North Sea Express”. They managed to realise their plan smoothly until they got to the UK. After that, something went wrong.”

Sherlock shrugged his shoulders: “What I will say now is only a hypothesis, but I bet it won’t be far from the truth. In my opinion, De Vries refused to hand over the diamonds for some reason and was hiding from his former accomplices. He only agreed to meet one of them on a neutral ground and so they sent the oldest one, Murray, to negotiate with him and chose the private cubicle of the Eye as their meeting place. In theory, it should be the safest place possible, for it offered an absolute privacy there in the air and yet provided the clear view inside which theoretically prevented either of the men to turn violent.”

“But as we already know, the frail protection of the participants that the cubicle offered didn’t last and De Vries killed Murray in anger with his crutch there. The cubicle was booked on Murray’s name so maybe he hoped to run off quickly after landing, before his crime was properly discovered. He didn’t know that Murray brought the vial containing hydrocyanic acid with him. While he was dying, Murray threw the vial to the ground and stepped on it, changing the whole cubicle into the gas chamber in no time.”

“De Vries noticed immediately that something is amiss and threw open the emergency exit to jump out of it. He kicked Murray’s body together with the now useless crutch out to see how it fares. But when it ended on the edge of the embankment instead of in the Thames, he lost the nerve to follow it. Or maybe he was already too weak and near collapse. Either way, he died there within a hand’s distance from freedom. Very nasty death, no doubt.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes and steepled his fingers under his chin in thought.

“After we were involuntarily dragged into that crime, I immediately noticed the Dutch connection practically leaping at us. De Vries was a Dutch citizen, he owned an enterprise located in Amsterdam and the other victim operated in the North Sea, connecting Netherlands and the other North Sea countries with the UK. The only motive for their deadly quarrel I could imagine was money or some financial dealings between the two, but not of an ordinary kind, because such dealings would hardly require hydrocyanic acid being thrown around. I therefore made a short survey of the unsolved crimes taking place in Amsterdam in the last month and this diamond matter immediately caught my eye.”

Sherlock looked at us, his whole face shining brightly: “It struck me that the storage place full of plaster antique statues could be an ideal place for hiding such small stones. If these were cast-in into one of the sculptures, it would take an incredibly long time since any stranger would discover them.”

“But this was just my estimate, of course. It was just as likely that De Vries hid the diamonds somewhere else or that he wasn’t involved in that crime at all. I therefore wished to examine his warehouse right away to judge if I am on the right track. Little did I know that Murray’s accomplices are shadowing us with the intent of grabbing you at the first chance, Geoffrey. They were seriously determined to force you to give up the crutch you secured at the crime-scene in some way.”

“The rest is history.”

Greg thoughtfully nodded in approval. “That makes sense, yes. But it puzzles me that the crutch was empty after all. Did you know that would be the case?”

I frowned darkly at this insinuation. But Sherlock wasn’t offended, he merely shook his bandaged head: “No, I was completely mislead by their demand and fully believed that the crutch was the hiding-place for the stones. It was too late, only a little while before an explosion at the docks, that I realised my mistake and discerned where De Vries really placed them.”

We both sprung up after his last remark.

“Where he really placed them?? You mean… you mean to tell us you know where they are?” We stared at him, incredulous.

Sherlock smiled shame-facedly and he actually blushed.

“Yes. And I’ll show you right away. But you must promise me you won’t comment on it, OK?”

Sherlock rose out of his seat and casually walked to the wrapped up thyrsus recumbent in the corner of the room. He slowly took the plastic cover off it and lifted it carefully, weighing it in his hand. He then seized the artificial pine-cone placed at the top of the slim metal rod and screwed it off with ease.

Scatter of small stones fell out of the decorative cone when he overturned it above Greg’s desk. The greyish pebbles spread over the surface of the table and lingered there like raindrops. We gazed at them in astonishment.

Sherlock wore a self-deprecating grimace on his lips now: “Do you realise what had happened? The moment I believed I was spying them out of your office, I actually brought them in. That was De Vries’ joke at my expense, I guess. He hid them into the insignia of that jolly fellow Dionysus. And the Apollo’s bow contains the second batch of them, no doubt.”

We stood with our gaze blankly pointed at him. Then we burst into the wildest guffaw this bureau ever encountered. Sherlock tried to shush us but realising it’s pointless, he opened the door of the cubicle and escaped to the hallway hastily.

When I finished laughing, I wiped out the tears of merriment from my eyes and went after him.

I found him in a vestibule, standing in the alcove half-lit by the afternoon sun, the edge of light and darkness passing right through the middle of it. He smoked nervously, tipping the ash into the large ash-bin.

I wanted to apologise and to congratulate him on successfully solved case, but he was having none of it. With his eyes averted to the side, he crumpled the cigarette in his fingers and said quietly: “John, about that moment there at the dock… when they ordered me to kill you…”

I put my finger to his full red lips.

“You don’t need to explain anything, I know you never seriously intended to hurt me.” I announced with unshakable conviction. “I was a bit confused there at the dock, I admit. But once I got to think about it with clear head again, it all became evident to me. So don’t worry about that. You should rather tell me how you managed to detonate semtex in that Silvertown hole.”

Sherlock raised his eyes and pierced me with a sharp inquiring look. Still, his face relaxed a bit and he even smirked a little: “You knew it was me?”

“Well, it would be a very big coincidence if their semtex exploded spontaneously exactly in the moment when it did. And I remember now how you threw the crutch over my shoulder in that last second. I am not dumb, Sherlock. Please, tell me everything.”

Sherlock bowed his head and leaned against the wall of the alcove, crossing his arms over his bandaged chest. He directed a determined glance at me right after.

“Yes, I took some fulminating compound with me when I left Baker Street,” he confessed with hard edge to his voice. “You may recall that I examined quite a large volume of fulminated mercury last week in order to find extrinsic adulterants in it. When they gave me that appalling order, I merely put that chemical into the hollow left after the severed grip. I then stepped up to you in order to be nearer to the semtex-crate so that I could aim better when I threw the crutch on it.”

“Now, you are probably aware that fulminated mercury is highly sensitive to shock. The moment it violently impacted against the crate it exploded immediately. It was not able to do much damage on its own. However, it was powerful enough to pierce the thin plywood of the crate and to detonate its contents at once.”

Sherlock stubbornly lifted his chin, his eyes steely and dark: “In a way it was me who killed those men. And yet I do not regret anything. I would kill every single one of them all over for your sake.”

It was a dark confession - and yet I never heard anything so touching in my life.

I rubbed my chin absentmindedly, disturbing the prickly stubble already growing on it and asked: “Weren’t you afraid we would be caught in a blast?”

“You never would, John.” Sherlock assured me heatedly. “The concrete wall standing behind you would shield you from it.”

“And what about you?”

Sherlock shrugged his shoulders with disinterest: “I am not that important.”

I immediately lifted my hands, placing one palm onto his sharp cheekbone, the other on his lips sprouting such nonsense. Sharp needles of tears prickled me under my lids but I managed to give him the crooked, watery smile anyway.

“You nutter, you absolutely mad nutter.” I whispered fondly. “Didn’t I already show you how important you are to me? Just you wait… just you wait, Sherlock Holmes. One day I will teach you to hold yourself in a much higher esteem.”

“Hm, if you think so…”

“I don’t merely think so, it’s the promise. The one I definitely intend to keep.” I swore with solemn air and ruffled his dark curls playfully. “But I’ll leave that for later. I think we should speak about some serious matter for a change. So… what about some ice-cream?”

I floored him fair and square. Sherlock was speechless for a while. Still, he noticed my shameless grin and came to his senses just as quickly.

He lifted the corners of his mouth and leered maliciously at me.

“Well, that steak and kidney pie flavour sounded interesting the last time, John…”


Source: Wikipedia Commons

Last edited by ukaunz (July 5, 2016 12:55 am)


     Thread Starter

July 5, 2016 9:47 pm  #15

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!


     Thread Starter

July 8, 2016 2:55 am  #16

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

This is the seventh fic of the exchange, please remember to  post your comments

This story is for SusiGo. You gave me some lovely prompts. To my - sort of - horror, though, I could see that you wanted something historic/Victorian, something I’m really bad at writing. So combining that wish with some of your other prompts (established Johnlock, committed relationship, humor) – and the theme of the challenge in general – I came up with a solution I hope will work for you. It was quite fun to write for me at least! Great thanks to besleybean for beta reading the story (although any errors should be attributed to me, the author).

Content Ratings: Teen and Up Audience
Relationships/Pairings: (M/M) Johnlock
Content warnings/tags: Fluff and humor with some light elements of flirting and a small hint of (not real) violence (not between Sherlock and John).

A day at the beach – the Baker Street way

"The beach, John? Seriously?"

Sherlock looked up from his favourite position on the couch – his head tucked neatly on the British flag pillow and his hands steepled just below his chin. John, standing in the middle of the living room, looking quite pleased with his own decision, nodded.

"Yeah, thought it would be good for us to get out a bit. Enjoy the sun while we have it – lord knows we don’t get too much of that here in London".

Sherlock scoffed.


"Thought you’d say that". John produced a gift from his pocket, dangling it in front of Sherlock.

"I’ll let you open it at the beach. Oh, and I will need help putting on sun oil, especially on my back."

Sherlock rolled his eyes as he got up from the couch.

"Those cheesy tricks might have worked on your girlfriends, John, they won’t work on me." He wandered into the kitchen to make tea. John put the gift on the table.

"I’ll have a cuppa as well, thanks", he said, without commenting further on the beach trip. Later that evening, John was watching tv and Sherlock was back on the couch, eyeing the gift.

"What’s in it anyway?" Sherlock nodded to the package.

"I’ll let you know. At the beach" John said, without looking away from the telly.


John smiled, but didn’t reply.

"I’ll just open it after you’ve gone to bed. Or just let me hold it, I’ll deduce it."
"You can open it now, if we go to the beach tomorrow."
Sherlock sighed dramatically.

They were seated at the breakfast table. John digging into his cereal while Sherlock was enjoying his toast with liberal amounts of honey. He was chewing thoughtfully.

"Fine. We will go to the beach. I don’t know why this is so important to you."

"Just some sun and fresh air, Sherlock. It will do us both some good." John got up and went to the bedroom. He returned with the gift, and tossed it to Sherlock, who quickly caught it.

Sherlock turned the gift around, sniffed it and dangled it in front of his ear.

"No sound, no particular smell. No loose bits. Solid. Feels like a book."

"Thought you’d need something to keep you occupied. Come on, let’s pack."

A few hours later, John was enjoying the sand between his sandal-clad toes. The beach was busy, but not as bad as it could have been, considering the rare sunny day in England. Sherlock was silent, but seemed to be in a good mood himself. He had brought the gift, but hadn’t opened it yet. He had said he wanted something to do when he got bored of deducing the other people at the beach.

John stopped. There seemed to be a huge gathering of people and equipment at the other end of a beach. John could see cameras, mics and what looked like a couple in Victorian outfits surrounded by people in t-shirts and shorts.

"Look at that, Sherlock.", he said, pointing towards the set.

"Looks like they are shooting a movie, or maybe a tv series".

Sherlock glanced in the direction John was pointing.

"Too bad Mrs. Hudson isn’t here, she would probably know exactly what this is for, and which actor is married to which actress. "

John laughed as he put his blanket down on an empty spot. He rummaged through his bag until he found the sun screen. He sat down and started rubbing the cream into his arms and front before handing it to Sherlock.

"Do my back, will you?"

Sherlock sat down behind John, squeezed some cream onto his hand and started massaging his shoulders. John closed his eyes and sighed contently. It really felt lovely. He could feel Sherlock’s breath by his ear.

"This is the true reason for us going to the beach, isn’t it? " Sherlock whispered, his voice deep and warm, while his hands caressed John’s shoulders.

John smiled widely.

"One of the perks, yeah."

They gave each other a brief kiss before Sherlock continued with his shoulder and upper back.

"Lie down so I can do your lower back."

John did as he was told. He relaxed into Sherlock’s comfortable and warm touch. It had been a long week at the clinic, he was tired. Nothing wrong with just closing his eyes and relaxing a bit…

"My dear Watson, if I may, we need to go!"

Watson opened his eyes. Where was he? Looking around he saw a dark London street, lit by gas lamps and an impatient, and perfectly clad, Sherlock Holmes standing a few feet away from him.

"Why are you just standing there? We have to be quick on our feet, Watson, or I fear the culprit will get away!"
Watson wasn’t sure what had just happened, but he ran after Holmes as he had done so many times before. They ran past whinnying horses pulling cabs and late night wanderers, around corners and into dark alleys. Holmes disappeared behind a corner, and as Watson heard a thump and a yelp , he sped up even more and flew around the corner.

There he saw the culprit they had been chasing, sitting on the ground, holding his stomach in agony, and a quite proud looking Holmes looming over him.

"So tell me, Mr. Brown, you were the very figure we saw skulking outside Lady Cromwell’s estate last week, was it not?"

Mr. Brown nodded, eyes closed in pain.

"Yes, yes, it was me. In Lord’s name, was that kick really necessary?"

"Well, my dear Sir, you were running, and I had to catch you, didn’t I? Oh, there you are, Watson. I dare say, you have put on a few pounds after moving in with Mrs Watson, haven’t you? You seem to be a tad slower than you used to be?"

Watson furrowed his brows in protest.

"I beg your pardon, Holmes! I am as in a fine shape as ever! Just… my leg, you see!"

Holmes gave him a sidewards glance.

"Yes… your leg. Of course."

Watson huffed.

"I am quite disappointed with the criminal classes these days, Watson,» Holmes complained. "Simple murders, easy solutions – and when they are under suspect, they flee. The state of it!"

Watson tried his best to suppress a smile behind his moustache.

"Yes, I will make sure that those of the criminal inclination receive the telegram announcing Holmes’ requirement of the London thugs."

Holmes drew in a breath in protest, but before he could reply there were the sounds of shouting and boot-clad feet running approaching.

"Holmes! Watson! What in God’s name do you think you are doing?"

"Ah, Lestrade! There you are. You and your Scotland Yard finest, arriving a little late as usual. Yes, I caught your man, as always. If only you had paid attention to the details, Lestrade…"

Watson could hear a Holmes deduction rant coming on and was slightly zoning out. Someone was prodding him, it felt like, but when he looked over his shoulder, there was no one there.


Who was that? Holmes never called him John, very few men did – and this was definitely a mans’ voice. Not since he was a young boy and his father had…

"John! Wake up!"

John woke to Sherlock shaking his shoulder. He felt hot and his mouth was dry. Where were they? Lestrade? This was too warm for the London back alley.

It took him a few seconds to wake up properly. Oh, the beach! Sherlock looked mildly annoyed by having been left alone on the boring beach. His gift, a book called Bees and Beekeeping in the Urban Household, was laying next to his own blanket.

"You fell asleep and I’ve finished the book you gave me – interesting, by the way, thank you for that. But now it got boring."

"I dreamt we were chasing a stalker through the streets of London in Victorian times."

"Really, John? You and Mrs Hudson watch far too much telly. There is nothing more melodramatic and clichéd than the Victorian times. "

"I even had a wife! Can you imagine?" John laughed in disbelief – what an odd dream!

Sherlock snorted while packing up his book and blanket.

"Sounds both unrealistic and melodramatic, then. Let’s go home. No use in the beach if you’re only going to fall asleep. You can do that at home, while I check up on my latest study in decomposing rat organs."

John sat up, still lost in thought. It had felt real, though. He looked over to the movie shooting. Whatever they were doing, it featured a woman crying and some children, all clad in Victorian clothes. Nothing like what he had dreamt. Part of him just wanted to close his eyes and continue the dream. He was wondering how that version of Holmes and Watson were doing. Did they live together? Like flatmates? Surely a relationship wouldn’t be possible in the Victorian era? But no one knew what happened between closed curtains, did they?

"John!" Sherlock was standing with his bag packed, looking impatient.

"Are you coming?"

"Alright, I’m coming" John got to his feet and tucked his blanket into his bag. He wanted to continue the story from his dream. Maybe get inspiration from one of the crimes they’d solved together, put that into the story. He and Sherlock solving their crimes in the Victorian era? Would be something to do when they didn’t have much going on and he didn’t have new tales to blog about. Better than watching Sherlock’s rat experiment anyway. Who knew, perhaps it would be a hit? He had no idea what was popular in the crime novel department nowadays.

"Can we stop by the library, Sherlock? I want to borrow some books about London in Victorian times."

Sherlock raised a curious eyebrow. John cleared his throat.

"For research. You never know what could come in handy at a crime scene".

"All right. But when we get home, you owe me a massage." Sherlock winked. John grinned back.

"You mean the rat organs can wait?"

Sherlock’s face cracked in a wide grin.

"Oh, definitely."

The looked at each, both smiling. Perhaps the library could wait until tomorrow, John thought to himself, as they walked towards where the cab line.

Last edited by ukaunz (July 8, 2016 6:51 am)


     Thread Starter

July 8, 2016 3:07 am  #17

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

This time, the artwork is by the very talented GimmeCat. Thank you GimmeCat, for allowing me to use this gorgeous picture for our exchange

Last edited by ukaunz (July 8, 2016 3:36 am)


     Thread Starter

July 11, 2016 5:01 am  #18

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Hey everyone, here's our eighth fic! Please read it and go and comment over there

This fic is for Schmiezi. She would like to read some heartwarming Johnlock but has expressed the following deal breakers: "Mary as a good person, major character death."

She had given me two prompts (a) S3 fix-it taking place right after TAB; or (b) John's and Sherlock's first summer holidays as a couple.

I’ve chosen the fix-it one, and I really, really hope you will like it.

I apologise for the ridiculous amount of time it took me to write this.

Content Ratings: Teen and Up Audiences / Mature. (I’m really rubbish at rating, sorry)
Relationships, Pairings, Orientations: M/M (guess who?)
Content Warnings: Violence, mention of drug use

A Case of Identity, or: Life is a Masquerade

‘Doctor Watson. Take care of him. Please.’

It was a rare occurrence to see Mycroft Holmes in such a shaken state. To be fair, anyone would be shaken after sending their little brother to a fatal secret mission. Even if it was of only four minutes, the fact that upon getting him back said little brother had taken the decision to end his life had made it worse. He had felt his core turn cold when Sherlock had torn the paper, saying ‘No need for that now. Got the real thing’, strongly implying that he had been high. From the glimpse of it he had got, it was a strong cocktail with numerous ingredients. Given Sherlock’s recent…relapse, John suspected that it was not a mere pretend list.

He wondered briefly if Mycroft was serious in asking him that. As if it were a favour. Of course he would look after Sherlock! That’s all he had ever done, wasn’t it? Well…up until his faked death, for which he still had not worked out the reason. I still don’t understand. And there’s the back of the t-shirt.Magnussen had really got to him. Sherlock had said that he was an idiot, but far less stupid than the rest of the human population. He had chosen to live with him, after all.

And Mary had come around, at the perfect time. She had everything, she represented the perfect woman for him: adventurous, easy on the eye, clever and frank, not prone to dismiss, to hide anything. From anyone, least of all her husband. Her lie about her past was still fresh in his memory and he still felt anger and profound hurt at having been deceived by the person he loved. But he would move on. He had married her, and John liked to think of himself as a man of principle.

When Mary had entered his life, he was still in mourning but she helped abate his grief, make it less overwhelming. Sometimes she made him feel almost happy, enough for him to propose to her.

And then Sherlock had come back, had returned from the grave, and John’s life had been yet again turned upside down. Naturally, he had been hurt that his friend would return in such an off-hand way, as if nothing would have changed, as if the fact that Sherlock had lied to him was okay and he would accept it. But he hadn’t, obviously. He had lunged at Sherlock and tried to make him feel his frustration, his anger, his pain. He had quickly forgiven him: that much was true. Sherlock had disappointed him like he had never done before.

But then he was back on the battlefield with Sherlock, even if it were a slightly different one, with a little more…normalcy, before he realized that ‘normalcy’ was not what he longed after. After Sherlock had made him realize that and after telling him that Mary, his own wife, was lying to him. It turned out that Sherlock was still lying about his habits, or rather omitting to mention any change in them. But as John failed to observe everything which was happening around him, he could not really blame Sherlock for not telling him. He could only blame himself for not noticing that his best friend was in a bad enough shape to fall off the wagon. The only thing he could do for him was helping him.

Mycroft knew all of this. His request was nonsensical. However, the simple fact that he was voicing it betrayed his concern. John looked at him and nodded, because even if Mycroft knew that John would not do otherwise, he understood that Mycroft needed reassurance.

That he would put so much trust in him was daunting, especially since he had not acted as a best friend should have. But apparently, Mycroft deemed him important and competent enough to help his little brother. John didn’t have the faintest idea where to begin since he had never dealt with users. He was certain that Sherlock would see himself that way, and not as a drug addict.

He followed Sherlock and Mary out of the jet, not as concerned for Mary as he ought to have been. His primary concern at the moment was Sherlock’s overdose. Because he had overdosed: he was sure of it. He was too out of it, too feeble, not focussed enough. And he seemed emotional. Even if he knew that Sherlock was a human being and not a machine, his emotions were apparent and unrestrained. This was such a change from his usual way of being that it was disturbing. The only detail which was not different was the snapping tone he had while talking to Mycroft.

And Sherlock confirmed that he did overdose on purpose.

John did not react much to this. An east wind was coming and, as Sherlock had said, the game was never over.

Sherlock walked to the car which had brought them to the tarmac, settling in the back and John followed suit. Even if the car was large and spacious, Mary was not too keen on sharing the rear of the car with them, notwithstanding her ever expanding belly. Of course, it would have been common decency for Sherlock to settle in the front: Mary was pregnant and needed all the space she could get, and John was her husband, a doctor who would know how to react if something happened.

A heavy silence threatened to establish itself – all the built up tension brought upon by their farewells demanded to be lift, Sherlock’s departure most likely did not come with a return ticket.

‘So. Fancy eating Chinese tonight?’ John asked.

Mary was not paying attention and Sherlock only looked at him in mild surprise. Old habits dying hard, he started explaining his train of thought.

‘Well, the game is on, isn’t it? You’ll want to dive straight into it, I suppose, and there’s no way you’re doing this alone. I need to eat and you...even more so – you won’t eat during the case anyway.’

Sherlock rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.

‘And we’ve got something to celebrate.’

Mary turned around.

‘Oh?’ Sherlock and Mary asked.

‘Your four-minute exile.’

A faint smile touched Sherlock’s lips and his voice became soft and distant.

‘Yes, we do, don’t we?’

‘You are back. Aren’t you?

A shadow passed over Sherlock’s features and he replied in a murmur. ‘Indeed I am, John. Indeed, I am.’

Silence developed for a few moments, which seemed like an eternity to John before Mary spoke up and shattered the fragile peace they had come back to.

‘So. Moriarty’s back. Care to tell us what he’ll do next?’

Sherlock remained silent.

‘Oh, come on. Share with the class, Sherlock,’ she said. ‘Prove you’re clever.’

He glared at her and threw an apologising look towards John.

‘Afraid his next move is getting back to you, aren’t you?’ he said, obviously preventing his tone from being too acerbic…but failing to do so, if the look on Mary’s face was of any indication.

John was dumbfounded.

‘Wait. Sherlock. I know I’m not the smartest person around – and with the two of you here it’s even more evident – but I do understand what you’re implying. Why would you say such a thing?’

‘You know my methods, John. Apply them,’ he replied.

‘Why are we going to Baker Street?’ John asked, changing the subject.

‘Safest place I know,’ replied Sherlock.

‘It did get blown up by Moriarty so he could have your attention,’ John reminded him.


‘I see. No, I don’t.’

‘Think.’ was Sherlock’s only answer.

Mary was still seated in the front seat, ignoring the two men in the back. Sherlock had hit a nerve and, even if she did not let it show, she was certainly disturbed he had found out. How he had, she had no idea. And thanks to Sherlock’s indiscretion, John knew as well. It was already bad enough that he knew about her past, but that he should know about that particular side of it even in the vaguest terms, made things even harder. She was far from being of an average intelligence, but Sherlock’s subtle reveal of his plan had been too subtle, even for her. She had no precise idea of what Moriarty would do next, and resented being kept in the dark. That’s what John must feel like.

The rest of the drive to Baker Street was silent, Sherlock thinking, John pondering what he could have meant and Mary brooding.

When they climbed out of the car, John barely remembering to help Mary out, Mrs. Hudson was there to welcome them, all smiles and her usual cooing tone.

‘Oh, Sherlock, I am ever so glad you’ve come back! Mycroft said you’d be a long time away.’

‘Clearly he was wrong.’ Sherlock replied in the clipped, disdainful tone which he adopted whenever Mycroft was mentioned. He walked past the front door with his usual haughty attitude. He was Sherlock Holmes, the cleverest man John knew, and he had been called back from exile to rescue his country, nothing less. John assumed that one would have to be insane not to feel superior in that instant. And indeed Sherlock was. He never displayed anything but bored contempt and superiority, and only let that mask slip when in the company of…well, him.

John had started to understand why it was so when Sherlock told him that he and Mary were expecting. The elephant in the room had been so large in that moment that it would have been extremely hard not to see it. John only had confirmation of it when Sherlock silenced Magnussen, which resulted in his exile and witnessed Sherlock bottle up his emotions and feelings, for the first time with acute awareness, as he extended his hand in farewell.

Now that Sherlock’s secret was known to John, he could not ignore the situation anymore. He knew that Sherlock would not, since he considered emotions to be intrusive and distracting: he had to deal with it. And of course, there was the small matter of Mary’s real identity and Sherlock’s drug habit and fragile state.

For now, however, matters were pressing: Moriarty’s return was somewhat puzzling to say the least.

As he always did, he would give Sherlock his full attention and help him in any way he could.

‘Oh, what a prince he is,’ exclaimed Mrs. Hudson.

‘Yes...and with a loyal follower.’

‘Now, don’t be like that, you know they’ve always been...well, you know. And Sherlock will always have somebody in his wake,’ she added in a desultory manner, as if this did not change anything.

And it’ll always be me, thought John as he walked passed the front door.

He looked up as he heard Sherlock open the door. Not so much opening the door but rather leaving his hand on the doorknob and waiting for him to ascend. Can we start afresh?

John smiled heartily, and started walking up the stairs, the very slight limp which had begun to start again after their farewell already fading. Yes. Yes, of course we can.

Sherlock waited for John to have ascended the seventeen steps to their flat before opening the door, as if it were a place John had never set foot in and would discover this very instant. In many respects, it was: John had not been there since their visit to Appledore on Christmas Day and Sherlock’s subsequent week in solitary confinement. It would have felt wrong and disturbing to be alone in that flat again. And he had certainly never entered the flat with a pregnant woman following him.

Sherlock made a show of opening the door, all grandeur and extravagance before going straight for his violin. Thank you, from the bottom of my cold heart.

‘And anyway, you know. Boys will be boys. So. What’s happened?’ asked Mrs Hudson to Mary, who was following the inseparable pair.

‘Same old, same old. The game is on, apparently.’

Mrs Hudson clapped her hands above her heart. ‘Oh, wonderful! A nice murder, to cheer everyone up!’

‘I’ll prepare a good pot of tea then, I’ll be right back,’ she added after a moment as she saw that everyone was apparently deep in thought.

John had settled in his armchair, and was pondering on the revelation he had had earlier. What with dealing with Mary’s never ending lies, the dreadful state of their marriage – Whose fault is that, he wondered - Sherlock’s...feelings and fragile state, not to mention Moriarty’s return…

‘I’ll need something stronger than just tea…’

‘I had a feeling you might. Here you are, love.’

‘Thank you Mrs Hudson, you’re a saint.’

‘I have learnt a thing or two about observing, you know.’

‘I too need something stronger. 7% stronger.’ Sherlock realised just as he said that how bad a comment it was, for John had a look of simmering anger bordering on rage on his face, not to mention the deepest disappointment he had ever seen, even deeper than when he learnt that Mary was not all she seemed to be. ‘I was only jok-’

‘This is not funny, Sherlock. It is far from amusing to me and contrary to anything a doctor would tell you.’

‘Only a fool argues with his doctor,’ said Sherlock in a contrite manner. I’m sorry. I had no idea you would be so upset. Forgive me, John. I’m sorry.

‘Indeed.’ I forgive you.

Sherlock turned to his violin again, and started playing a music he knew John liked.

‘What shall I fetch you, dear?’ asked Mrs Hudson, ignoring the two men and their rather cryptic conversation.

‘Oh, just a glass of water is fine, Mrs Hudson. Thank you.’

Six months had brought Sherlock and her husband closer together. She knew that John would go back to Sherlock’s after the A.G.R.A. incident; it was much less costly than renting yet another flat and only logical he would not stay in their home. She had not expected John to become so distant with her so quickly, however. How could the two of them have a secret, psychic conversation with the greatest of ease when John and herself struggled to have a normal conversation which went beyond ‘Hi, hope you’re okay, see you later’?

Sherlock used, as he was wont to, the soothing playing of an instrument to start thinking on the situation at hand - namely, Moriarty’s return. Moriarty’s return and his connection to Mary. John was central in all of this - John was always central. If he decided to involve Mary into bringing Moriarty down, her employer, he was to take John’s position on the matter into account. Would he ask her to help bring him down when her loyalties were suspicious as a way of redeeming herself? Or would he take the more upright route, and consider her safety paramount and discard any thought of putting her into danger? It was obvious what he wanted to do: having her, a rogue employee, with them was a considerable advantage when dealing with Moriarty. But what John would want remained to be seen.

His agitated state over feelings and emotions was a stepping-stone, and although he would have claimed that it was not his problem for the time being, ignoring them was difficult. Matters were pressing: he could not let himself be lead astray by hindrances such as feelings. The Game was on, and John seemed to be willing to play with him. It was just as it should be. He had no reason to add distracting thoughts into his already full-to-the-brim mind.

It registered to John that Mary was being awfully silent. He was not so keen on having her helping bringing Moriarty down since he considered that she had worked for him under no threat that he was aware of, and he feared she might turn her coat. Again. If she ever had in the first place.

It was not her safety for which he was worried, he was certain that Mary was still very much able to defend herself even in her condition. The problem was her dishonesty and questionable loyalty.

Even though Sherlock was not saying anything, it was rather obvious that he wanted her to play a part in it: he had not outright told her off of their flat, and God knew how much of a rude, obnoxious character Sherlock could be. Even if he wasn’t saying anything, he was relatively at ease, arms and legs uncrossed, always facing John but ever so slightly turned towards Mary.

She wouldn’t read anything in it, no matter how smart she was, but he would. He had learnt to read Sherlock like a book without putting any effort in it. Sherlock had never said he had noticed, not in so many words, but his usual bad temper and general moodiness receded significantly after the Pineapple Incident, where John appeared to have read Sherlock’s mind and cut him short mid-speech about his latest, most important experiment which he needed to do to discover...something. ‘Hold that thought, I’ll be right back,’ John had said before leaving the flat and reappearing fifteen minutes later with a bottle of pineapple juice and several pineapples. He knew from experience that two would never be enough for Sherlock.

When he crossed the threshold of their flat, Sherlock’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw what John had bought and sported the biggest grin on his face.

‘My conductor of light has become a beacon,’ he declared.

John had not expected to be praised at all, in fact he had expected ignorance and dismissal at best, and vicious, snarky comments at worst. He was thunderstruck.

‘Yeah, well, lightning has struck it so much that it actually turned into something useful. Ta,’ he added after a moment, still not believing Sherlock had paid him any compliment at all. Since then, John had not ceased observing Sherlock, gaining more and more knowledge about him, although he was not aware of it and, when he did realise in a moment of lucidity, wondered how that particularly strange talent of his would prove useful. It had come to be useful on more than on one occasion as they helped out the Yard with cases - and now, obviously.

Sherlock was the one who read people but John had turned his talent into an art, the subject of his attention doing his best to be unreadable, so much so that it had become second nature. If he were any sort of researcher, he might call it Sherlockology. It would please Sherlock’s ego tremendously.

So, there he was, in their living room in 221b, sat in his armchair facing Sherlock and waiting for his next move because he would always follow him, and that thought had become more and more of a certitude. As for Mary, she was sat on the client’s chair because that’s what you are now, Mary, a client, looking for all the world to see like a criminal awaiting her sentence. Sherlock was, as usual, standing in as judge and executioner, but also as the director of the next act which was going to unfold.

There was a knock on the door.

‘The curtain rises,’ Sherlock whispered to himself, ‘Come,’ he stated.

A young, dishevelled young man entered awkwardly, visibly shaking - most probably an addict then, and most likely terrified by whoever had sent him here.

‘I’ve got a message for - ‘

‘Yes, thank you,’ Sherlock interrupted.

‘Agra. I’ve got a message for Agra,’ he repeated.

Sherlock’s eyes visibly widened, John did not keep his surprise silent and exclaimed a rather loud ‘What?!’. As for Mary or was it Agra, then? she acted as if she was not really surprised. She was not expecting anything, really, but was hardly startled by the man’s statement.

His wife was some very talented actress: she only let escape a sharp gasp of breath, as if she were gathering strength and courage. Apart from that, however, she let nothing show.

‘What does the message say?’ she enquired, not even bothering to ask who the message was from. The young man shuffled his feet awkwardly, his whole body growing more jittery by the minute.

‘Stay exactly where you are. Keep your eyes fixed on me.’

Sherlock was shocked into silence upon hearing the very words he had said to John a lifetime ago. John had turned positively catatonic. The man added ‘Gottle o’ geer, gottle o’ geer, gottle o’ geer’.

No one moved in the room, Sherlock was shell-shocked, John’s awareness of the scene was utterly suspended and Mary was so completely confused by whatever was happening that she had frozen.

The young man pulled a gun and aimed at Mary’s face, hand steadier than ever. ‘Jim Moriarty sends his regards,’ he declared, before pulling the trigger. He then left the room, leaving an unaware-of-what-the-hell-just-happened John struggling to grasp it all, not to mention process it, and a somewhat less-poised-than-usual Sherlock, definitely shaken by the words and the gratuitous violence he had just witnessed.

The bullet hit Mary – Agra – in her right breast. Mary had been sitting but had slid down the chair after the bullet hit its mark, leaving her lying in a pool of her own blood.

John had barely moved, Sherlock had gone to his side and Mrs. Hudson was hurrying up the stairs, her panic and distress showing and becoming more and more evident by the second. John’s face was ashen as he started to register what had happened, and he could barely sit up, let alone stand. ‘What do you need?’ Sherlock asked.

‘Baby. Phone. Ambulance,’ he breathed. ‘Mycroft,’ he added as an afterthought.

John had not finished uttering the word ‘baby’ that Sherlock had already picked up on what he needed. He did not bother going the boring, normal and inefficient way of calling an ambulance. He immediately called Mycroft.


‘Shooting at Baker Street. John’s in shock. Mary’s been shot. The Watsons need help. Hurry.’


‘I’m fine. Hurry,’ he snapped. ‘Please,’ he added in a more urgent, anxious tone.

‘I’m on my way,’ declared Mycroft as he hung up.

As soon as Mycroft had hung up, Mrs. Hudson let out an evident sigh of relief and Sherlock an almost-not-begrudging acknowledgement of his elder brother’s reactivity. He knew that if John had witnessed the situation he would have made a scene at how curt and clinical he was, but time was of the essence. However, Sherlock was very well aware that his emotions were going to catch him unaware later: it always happened like that.

John was still on his armchair, pupils wider than moments before as his brain slowly started to fully register and comprehend what had happened. Sherlock noted that his breathing, usually so steady, was now shallow and laborious: he sensed an upcoming panic attack. As he knew better than offering a hug to an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD -or ‘smothering him in hugs’ as he’d been told by said ex-soldier- he hurried to pick up his violin to play a soothing tone, one that worked most of the time to keep John’s nightmares at bay. He had reasoned that whatever the trigger the problem would in essence be the same, and if it worked for nightmares it also had to for real life occurrences. Even ones as real and violent as this one.

Numbed as it was, it took a moment for the sounds of music to register in John’s brain. Once they did, however, the sounds did indeed soothe him: his breathing rhythm became more precise and regular, his muscles started to loosen and his focus progressively returned to reality Soothing savage breast…and the mind… is indeed best done through music…, Sherlock thought as he kept his eyes fixed on him, not leaving him for an instant all through his playing.

British to a fault, John swallowed his emotions and tried to soldier on by keeping a stiff upper lip…but failed. Sherlock’s return a little under a year ago had challenged his inner strength but he had overcome it. He never stopped believing that I was not a fraud…nor did he think I was dead. Well, not completely. This, however…this proves to be much harder a challenge. He had stopped believing in Mary. Stopped loving her, all the signs pointed to that. His love for the child…this never stopped growing.This is what makes it hard. That baby has to survive if only for her father’s sanity.

‘Mycroft. You were fast coming,’ declared Sherlock, relieved.

‘Of course. John is... – ‘

‘Yes. Yes, he is. Can you…?’ he started as the paramedics entered the room.

‘Of course, sir. What happened?’ asked the woman as she got to work.

‘Can’t you see what happened?!’ snapped Sherlock. ‘The woman here was shot. She is pregnant. The husband seems to be in shock. What other information do you need?’

‘Alright, sir. Thank you. You are right in your assessment…Although…the woman’s severely lost consciousness. There is still a chance to save the baby, but we must be quick. Out of my way, please!’ she continued as she hurried her team down to the emergency vehicle.

The team Mycroft had dispatched was extremely efficient – Sherlock suspected him to have chosen this specific team for such an occasion – but it did not make the waiting in the emergency ward pass any faster. John was livid at the thought of losing his child. Mary…well, he had lost her when she shot his best friend… How hard it is to be strong for others… He put his hand on John’s shoulder, a reminder of his steadfast presence: the tension in John’s body lessened imperceptibly. A surge of joy swelled inside him, delight and pride at having that much importance for someone whom he held in the highest regards, but the high spirits he felt were significantly diminished because of his inability to help him more. John had almost not deviated from the posture he had assumed when the shots were fired: he was seated, limply, staring blankly ahead as if he were in a state of waiting. Sherlock assumed that he waited for something to happen, so he would be delivered from not knowing but at the same time most certainly desiring his child to survive with every fibre of his body.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sherlock could see Mycroft’s guards. They, too, were waiting, wary of something else to happen. If anything were to befall him, he knew his brother would not let it go unpunished. He didn’t have any authority on them, but if John were to be hurt even more or worse, killed, Sherlock had an inkling that Mycroft would look the other way as he would let his wrath loose. Mycroft had always had guards protecting Sherlock since that day. At first they were not the most discreet people and Sherlock would slip away from them before they gradually became better and he eventually let them do their job, if only so his brother would relent in or at least reduce his unwanted and unnecessary surveillance. His concern was as Mycroft’s prying into his life: unwarranted and superfluous. He did, however, start to appreciate their necessity when his brother’s men helped eliminate a threat to his friends’ lives. Needless to say that when dire times such as this one surfaced, he was not ashamed to count on their presence and was rather thankful for his brother to be so concerned, although if they failed…

‘Doctor…Watson?’ a nurse called.

John did not notice his attention was needed, not until Sherlock kneeled in front of him, gently grasping his knee and telling him in a low voice that his turn was up. John sat up and breathed in before getting out of his stupor. No reason in getting up straight away, he reasoned: the nurse had just called his name to alert him that the doctor in charge would see him soon to inform him on his wife and child’s health.

‘John. Get up. The doctor will see you. Now,’ Sherlock insisted.

It was true that his reflexes were not…as sharp as they should have been. He was still suffering the aftermath of shock.

‘Yes. ‘m here. A’right,’ he replied as he was getting up laboriously.

‘Good,’ Sherlock declared, standing next to him now, ready to intervene should John collapse or feel weak and be in need of support.

‘I’m afraid I have bad news to deliver, Dr. Watson,’ the doctor said.

Ever heard of bedside manner? Or simply manners ?

‘Your wife’s heart had already stopped beating when she arrived at the hospital. We tried to restart it, but…As you requested we did a C-section on your wife…’

‘And the child?’ asked Sherlock, aware it was what John most needed to know. They held their breaths.

The doctor smiled. ‘She made it. Barely, but she did. You – ‘

‘When can I see her?’ John interrupted.

He held up the palm of his hand for calm.

‘Not just yet, I’m afraid.’ He declared firmly though a little contrite. John’s face fell. ‘Well, you can see her, but she is in intensive care. Only through a glass,’ he amended. ‘Sorry for the misunderstanding.’

‘Nevermind –’

‘Thank you –’ replied Sherlock and John at the same time.

‘If you’ll, er, follow me,’ Doctor Hae said.



‘What’s the female version of ‘William’ again?’

‘Wilhelmina,’ Sherlock answered straight away. ‘Oh.’ He blinked. ‘You mean…?’



Speechless Sherlock. Twice. In under a year… Kinda scary.

‘Wilhelmina. Willy. Will. Willa? Willow? Willa? Willa. Yes, Willa.’

‘Right. Do you really…?’

‘Yes,’ John answered in a firm and definitive tone.

‘That’s a good choice.’

‘I know.’

The two marked a pause.

‘You know I heard that.’

‘What? I didn’t say anything.’


‘Doctor? When can we – when can I bring her home?’ John asked as soon as Doctor Hae entered the room. Doctor Hae smiled at John’s phrasing. Both he and Sherlock pretended not to notice.

‘You can bring little…?’


‘You can bring little Willa home in two days. For now, though, she has to stay in intensive care for a few more hours and then observation, if everything is fine. Congratulations, Dr. Watson. I’ll leave you to, er, …’

‘Thank you, Doctor,’ John answered as the doctor left the room.

‘You are aware, John, that he has just implied that you and I…?’

‘Did he? Oh. Oh, well. People do little else, don’t they?’ Sherlock quirked a surprised eyebrow at this and tried his best not to be speechless yet again. This would absolutely not do.

‘Indeed, they do, John. Indeed, they do.’

Had they been walking back to Baker Street, John would have stopped dead in his tracks, and most likely have someone crash into him. Thankfully though, they were as usual using the service of a taxi and he did not. But his revelation did not go unnoticed by Sherlock.

‘You’ve got a question.’

‘How did…? Oh, nevermind.’


‘Well, it’s…’


‘Well, …’

‘‘Well’, what?’

‘My bab- Willa…’

‘For God’s sake, John!’ Sherlock exclaimed. It was clear that John would take a very long time coming to the end of the sentence he was going to say – and was probably still constructing – if he was not pushed to actually finish it.

‘Where…Where is she going to sleep? There are only two bedrooms at Baker Street…’

‘I don’t mind using the couch until you get the situation sorted.’

‘Got back to your old self, then.’ Despite the anger in the tone John used, there was hurt in his voice. ‘Ok. Thanks. I’ll…arrange something then,’ he added curtly.

Sherlock pretended not to notice that John had understood the exact opposite of what he meant. He did not show that he was offended at how John still perceived him, but proceeded to ignore him.

Sulking, really? I am the one you all but kick out of your flat and you sulk? Jesus, Sherlock!’

‘I did not say anything, John.’

‘No. No, you didn’t! That shows a lot more than actually saying something.’

‘What do you want me to say? What can I say without hurting your feelings or upsetting you? You’ve repeatedly said that I am a machine and – ‘

‘Oh no, not that, don’t you dare throw that in my face, Sherlock. We’ve moved past that issue already.’

‘It might have escaped your notice, John, but I haven’t. I didn’t mean for you to leave the flat, but it seems it would be for the best. So, there. You can pack your things and go.’

‘Wait. Sherlock. How can you of all people not have got past that?’

‘I just haven’t,’ he retorted, closing his coat tighter around himself.

‘Leave me alone. Message received,’ John said as he saw his friend curl up in his armour. ‘We willtalk about it when we get home.’

Sherlock did not provide him with any kind of answer.

The taxi pulled over in front of 221b Baker Street. Sherlock left hurriedly, leaving John to pay the fare.

When John entered the living room, Sherlock had already taken his tailored suit off and put his tailored silky dressing gown on. No reason not to show off in every occasion.

As was his habit for times of crisis and there are always times of crisis with Sherlock, John prepared some tea. Pinching his nose and breathing deeply to calm himself down while the kettle was on, John tried to recall Sherlock’s exact words. Sherlock confessed he was still not over John’s last words to him before the Fall. But John had forgiven him. He had said it. And shown it. He had asked him to be his best man, had named his daughter after him. What happened for him to be so distressed?

He had a right to be upset: he had lost his wife without actually forgiving her, had almost lost his baby and he would have to leave the flat where he felt so much at home. Oh.

‘Still sulking, or can we have a chat like proper grown-ups?’

Sherlock did not answer.

‘Alright. I’m leaving your cup here. Since you don’t want to talk, I am going to talk and you are going to listen. Don’t huff. You are. And won’t interrupt. After I’m done we will talk. You and I. Do we have a deal?’

‘I’m not a child.’

‘You’re behaving like a child,’ John remarked in a softer tone. He took his mug and clenched it. ‘I don’t want to leave Baker Street. But I have to, as there are only two bedrooms. I am going to look for another flat as of today, but if you don’t mind, I would like you to help me. To be involved in this. You are, and I hope you know that by now, my best friend. You were my best man at my wedding. My daughter is named after you. You are the most important person in my life, Sherlock. I am notbacking out of our friendship because I’ve got a child. I have to move out, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t see each other all the time. I want us to see each other all the time, Sherlock. I want you to be involved in my life. Surely you know that by now.’

‘I…I don’t…I don’t want...’ Sherlock replied, taken aback by John’s straightforwardness. He must have taken too long a time to formulate an answer: John’s face fell.

‘Oh. You really meant it...’

‘I suppose looking at a flat with only two bedrooms would be too subtle for you.’

This was the only warning Sherlock gave John: he could only act now, John had to understand he had misunderstood him, everything, his life, himself, would fall apart if he didn’t.

Sherlock, who had turned around to listen to John’s explanation – Sulking does not mean I have completely forgotten my manners – sat up and placed both hands around John’s face before abruptly kissing his forehead.

‘Nothing could be further from my mind. I want to…I want you to stay,’ he declared. ‘Find a way,’ he added with a kiss on the tip of John’s nose to dispel the command of these words.

Befuddled over Sherlock’s demonstrative behaviour, John reacted in what seemed to him to be the only logical way in that sort of situation: he laughed.

‘You can’t be serious,’ he managed to say when he saw the resolute look on Sherlock’s face.

‘I very much am, John,’ he replied with as much intensity as he was capable of.

‘I’m not…’

‘You will find a way.’

‘I do hope I’m not interrupting anything remotely important, brother mine.’

‘I’m delighted to see you, Mycroft,’ replied Sherlock in a tone heavily suggestive of the contrary.

‘As well you should.’

‘Have you come here to be useful at all, Mycroft, or did you just drop by to exchange snarky remarks with your brother?’ inquired John, not too pleased about the elder Holmes’ presence either.

‘My brother has strongly impressed himself on you, Dr. Watson. I merely came here to inquire as to the health of your child.’

‘You know how she is, Mycroft. What do you want?’

‘So much for politeness. Very well, I will be blunt then. Do you plan your arrangement to continue?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Doctor Watson, do you plan to continue living here with my brother?’

‘I could be wrong, but – ‘

‘It does concern me, Doctor Watson. It concerns me very much.’

‘Are you threatening me, Mycroft?’ John asked, a dangerous undertone in his voice coupled with a resolute, killing glare. Mycroft did not relent. Sherlock tilted his head to the right.

‘Oh so you are.’ He rose from the sofa in a poised, haughty manner. ‘Brother mine, you know where the door is, I believe,’ he continued contemptuously. ‘You can show yourself out and stop inflicting your unwanted presence on us and throwing threats. To John.’

‘Brother – ‘

‘And if you find yourself unable to do so, you will discover that caring is really not an advantage in your case,’ he asserted standing as upright as he could, a mere foot away from Mycroft, in a low voice dripping with venom.

‘Very well. Do keep in mind, Doctor Watson, that I have my brother’s best interests at heart. Good day.’

Mycroft left with a few ruffled feathers, trying to maintain an appearance of lofty nonchalance.

John and Sherlock looked at each other for a split second before laughter took over them uncontrollably.

‘That was … the most… ridiculous… break-his-heart-and-I’ll-end-you speech… ‘ve ever been given’

‘Is that what it was?’

‘Most definitely.’

‘Yes. Three-Continents-Watson would know about these things, wouldn’t he?’ Sherlock continued slightly mocking John before looking at him rather intently. ‘You are staying, then.’

John was disconcerted that Sherlock would be able to control his laughter enough to make such an assertion. The assertion in itself, however…not that astonishing, when you know the man. Time to be serious again, then.

‘I am. What gave me away this time?’


‘I…I’m sorry?’

‘Ever since you came back from Majorca, maybe a little before that, you started to realise – that took you a long time, by the way, I thought you knew – that I’m important. Then a little while later you came back to live with me. You love that place so much that you couldn’t be anywhere else without being unhappy. You said yourself that I’m the most important person in your life.’

‘Yeah… about that last comment, I… I’d like to amend it.’

‘I thought you might, yes.’ Sherlock marked a pause. ‘All this pointing to your staying here with me. Thank you,’ he added humbly.

‘Sherlock…are you going to find yourself…close to being moved?’ John asked teasingly.

‘Oh, shut up!’

They visited Willa the following day and the day after, all the while making plans to get used to the idea of raising a child together – John I-Am-Not-Gay-Watson has changed a lot, he thought as he looked at Sherlock holding Willa somewhat awkwardly – and preventing an infamously sly, elusive villain from wreaking havoc to the country. Piece of cake.

When they returned from the private hospital on the second day with little Willa with them, the flat was eerily quiet. Mrs. Hudson was not here to welcome them and coo at the baby and be, well, her general doting self. The tap was not even dripping.

‘This is ominous.’

‘I wouldn’t have said it better myself.’

‘I should have known you would throw a welcoming party.’

‘Oh, you know me. Can’t be happy without a good party.’

‘Of course, Mycroft knows you’re there.’

‘Of course he does. He sent me here. Didn’t see that one coming eh, Johnny-boy?’ he added when John could not have shown any more surprise had Moriarty been wearing a tutu. ‘Daddy gives his blessing.’

‘And Mother?’

‘You know her.’

‘I do. That’s the reason why I’m asking.’

‘Johnny-boy, stop gaping, would you? Don’t want to see that mouth open when I know where it’s been.’


‘That’s better. Now. Mycroft will naturally know of any change in your arrangement, but is there any in ours that I should know of?’

‘Wh- what…Why are you so civil[/]? Is it real? What the hell is happening?’ John blurted, looking at Sherlock for answers and reassurance.

‘Family feud. You’ve met Mycroft. You’ve met me. You’ve met Moriarty. Could it be anything else? You’re fine, John. You’re safe. Willa and you are safe,’ he added after a short break.

‘I would say to trust me, but I think you’re still rather sore on that issue, so…yeah.’

‘But you…!’

‘John.’ Sherlock said, turning towards him. ‘Nothing will happen. What happened in the past – ‘

‘Necessary evil. Hiiiiiiiii !’ cut Moriarty.

‘My God…! Sherlock…! You… you knew…! You absoLUTE…!’

‘Shhh, Johnny-boy. Don’t shout and wake the baby.’

‘Right. The two of you, stay there. Do whatever it is you Holmes do when you’re around each other. Just, don’t kill each other. I need to put Willa to bed so I can…’ John did not finish his sentence and left the room straight away, leaving the two brothers – [i]oh God!
– together.

‘Take your time, Johnny-boy!’ Moriarty’s singsong voice echoed behind him as he walked the stairs to his room, anger – fury – simmering, entertaining murderous ideas whilst carrying his daughter. ‘Take my time, tike my time… I’ll take my time, yes. When I end you. Jesus!’

By the time John had reappeared downstairs, the two brothers – he will have to get used to that idea – were nonchalantly exchanging acerbic words and even more acerbic threats over tea now that’s going too far. Even I wouldn’t do that.

‘Ah, John. Are y – ‘

‘Shut up, Sherlock. And stay shut up. Moriarty. Come here.’

‘Oh, bossy. No wonder you – ‘

‘Don’t. Talk. Don’t. Open. Your. Bloody. Mouth.’

‘Ah! I’ll be dealing with Captain Watson then I take it? How delicious, I’ve wanted to meet him for years’ Moriarty walked to John, hysterically enthusiastic in a demented way.

‘Good reasoning, yeah.’ John gauged him for a moment in silence. Moriarty was not showing any sign of being upset, until John took something out of his pocket. ‘Do you know what that is? Yes? See that you don’t come in my way ever again. I will find you. And I will use it. I will not hesitate.’

Moriarty was ridiculously sweating. John wondered briefly how anyone could be at the mercy of a threat of something so small and so soft. His curiosity died as fast as it had arisen, but his wrath remained. The unhinged, bizarre and frankly distressing Holmes threw a glance at his brother – I’ll never get used to that, not in a million years. Were he not Sherlock’s brother… ‘Go. Immediately. And nevercome back.’

‘Don’t look at me. Obey.’

‘But that’s not fun! I’ll – ’ His exclamation was cut short by the steadfast look on John’s and Sherlock’s faces. He left, unable to resist adding ‘I’ll be baaaaaack’ in an unsure singsong voice. John turned towards Sherlock again, looking grim.

‘That brother of yours is mental.’


‘Your other brother is as overbearing as you are prickly.’

‘I know.’

‘But I wouldn’t have you any other way.’

‘You…I’m sorry?’ Sherlock was astonished. He couldn’t possibly have heard correctly, could he?

John took a step towards Sherlock.

‘Yes, Sherlock. You have heard perfectly. Yes, I mean it. We will have to sort out a few issues, but what couple doesn’t?’

‘John, are you – ’

‘Yes. Now, what middle name would you give Willa?’

Last edited by ukaunz (July 11, 2016 5:11 am)


     Thread Starter

July 14, 2016 6:43 am  #19

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

We are onto our penultimate fic! It's another longish one. This one's for The Boss, but I'm sure it will be enjoyed by everyone. Please comment in the other thread when you've finished

Author’s note: Happy Marvellous Midyear Fic Exchange, SherlockHolmes. You asked for a casefic, horses, drugged Sherlock, a mind palace scene and torture amongst other things. I’ve done my best to incorporate these elements and do hope you like what I’ve come up with.

Characters: Sherlock, John, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft, Greg Lestrade, Tobias Gregson (ACD canon), OCs
Rating: PG, some swearing and non-graphic violence
Beta and Britpick: the wonderful besleybean
Tags: casefic, Sherlock and John are BFF, Greg rocks
Summary: “Gosh, wow,” Sherlock whimpered, eyes wide in a mixture of wonder and fear. “That’s straight out of Game of Thrones, isn’t it, love?”
Completely caught by surprise John almost choked on his beer. The last thing on earth he’d expected was for Sherlock to be up-to-date with this particular segment of mass entertainment. Somehow the notion of Sherlock binge-watching hours of rampant sex, intricate torture and vicious tribal warfare was more disturbing than having him end up in a hospital bed after indulging his taste for various kinds of stimulants and opiates. And this was the man who’d claimed he’d never even heard of James Bond.


Amelia Underwood paused and breathed deeply several times, pulling the crispy night air deep into her lungs with each inhale. The day had been cold for early June. The skies wrapped up in sodden grey flannel from which freak showers had splattered erratically, never lasting longer than a minute, but getting a woman who was on her knees weeding her garden thoroughly wet every single time.

An unexpected, truly spectacular sunset, pale lemon burnished to a fiercely glowing persimmon that was submerged in a spreading pool the colour of Burgundy wine had enlivened the last half hour of the evening. Now the views of the firmament were unencumbered, stars winking as alluringly as a spray of diamonds on a swathe of midnight-blue velvet in an exclusive jeweller’s shop window, and Amelia had decided to treat herself and Mr Wiggles to the luxury of a nocturnal ramble.

The moon had waxed to its journey’s culmination point, bathing the Berkshire Downs in a soft incandescent light. Across the vale the White Horse, forever galloping near the gentle crest of its hill, shone as bright as silverware polished to a shine by the ancient Gods themselves.

Around her the air pulsed with the sounds of small animals scurrying about on their business, reasoning the relative obscurity cloaked them against the watchful eye of their biggest enemy – man.

“Mr Wiggles,” Amelia called and the Welsh springer spaniel came tearing through a hedge, gambolling around her legs excitedly with his tongue dangling from his mouth.

“Down, luv’. Down,” she laughed, pointing at the ground. “Sit.”

Promptly, the dog sat, tail sweeping the grass with the enthusiasm of a treasure hunter who’s just noticed the needle on his metal detector rise a little higher.

“Good dog, Mr Wiggles,” Amelia praised and stooped to pat his head when all of a sudden Mr Wiggles shot up, hared around her and bolted up the path back to the summit they’d just traversed.

“Mr Wiggles, what the heck? Mr Wiggles,” she shouted after his swiftly disappearing form. But the spaniel, normally the very picture of obedience, paid her calls no heed and raced on, barking loudly.

“Darn’. What’s got into the blooming beast,” Amelia swore, pivoting to run after the dog – a pursuit that, given the fact she was a sixty-seven-year-old woman whose knees were shot with arthritis while Mr Wiggles was a healthy three-year-old spaniel – she didn’t particularly relish.

Still, she cut to a dogged chase up the hill, breath escaping from her mouth in fast little puffs. She was so immersed in the hunt she never heard the charge until the horses reared up in front of her eyes, Mr Wiggles dancing with death in the forest of horse legs, snapping and snarling as if his life depended on it.

There were four of them, she noticed. The rider on the first horse lifted his arm and swung something that flashed as bright as silverware polished to a shine by the ancient Gods themselves.

What the…, flashed through her head.


“Good heavens,” Mrs Hudson greeted John, sprightly cheer radiating her face. ‘Whatever is the world coming to these days?”

They’d arrived at 221B’s front door simultaneously. Mrs Hudson was attired in her best purple dress and John was hauling the loot (four cartons of milk, a box of PG-tips, two cans of baked beans in tomato sauce, a carton of eggs and a deep pan pepperoni pizza) from a shopping spree at their local Tesco’s, which he’d undertaken after a long day as a last minute temp at a Shoreditch clinic.

Mrs Hudson’s day had obviously been more enjoyable than John’s. Her chirpy smile and lack of a coat despite the frigid temperature spoke volumes to such an extent that John didn’t need the dead give-away of the traces of flour at her cuffs.

“Has Matt finally given Ryan his walking papers then?” John enquired. Apparently Mrs Turner’s married ones were facing a perfect storm and their happy little boat was about to flounder on the rocks. So far marriage counselling had done little to billow the ship’s sails in a search for gentler shores. The unhappy couple were the focal centre of their landlady’s motherly concern, which she then shared eagerly with Mrs Hudson and Mr Chatterjee, who, as the survivor of two divorces, was deemed the ultimate marriage expert. A few weeks earlier John had made the mistake of remarking that Matt had been looking decidedly down in the dumps lately and since then Mrs Hudson had updated him regarding the newest developments with almost daily bulletins.

“Oh, Lord, no,” she now tittered. “Six and a half dozen of red roses, one for each month they’ve been married. Isn’t it romantic? If Frank had ever bought me a dozen of roses I wouldn’t have put Sherlock onto him, not even after I found out about those other women. Mrs Turner was just mopping their hallway when Matt presented them. Ryan was over the moon. They couldn’t wait for her to leave and… well, you know.”

“Yeah,” John agreed, not that keen on imagining what Matt and Ryan got up to in the privacy of a Mrs Turner-less flat.

“No, but John, didn’t you hear?” Mrs Hudson changed tack. “That poor woman… Well, she didn’t suffer, I suppose, which is something to be grateful for. And that poor dog, sitting at her side for three days like that…”

“Sorry, but I haven’t the faintest what you’re going on about. Is it a case?”

“Oh no, well, if the police were smart they’d bring in Sherlock. He’d catch that horrible murderer in the blink of an eye. Mr Chatterjee said so as well.”


“I don’t know where he is,” Mrs Hudson rattled on. “He dashed out of the door this morning shouting for a taxi to take him to Barts. I didn’t pay him much attention really. I was too busy applying my lipstick. The colour suits me, don’t you think?”

“Err, yes,” John replied. His landlady’s choice in lipstick colours didn’t exactly top his individual priority chart but he readily admitted in this his’ might differ from Mrs Hudson’s. “It looks wonderful on you. I’ll just go up and see if he’s returned.”

“Of course, dear,” Mrs Hudson sent him off with a jaunty little wave.

Upstairs, John discovered Sherlock in the middle of their living room engaged in casting the telly such a withering look that John was amazed the pretty BBC journalist on the screen kept talking into her microphone, rather than blanching and scuttling off sideways.

“Will you look at that?” Sherlock invited unnecessarily, disgust dripping from his voice. John didn’t mind complying, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the woman who, as the camera zoomed out for an atmospheric shot of the surroundings showed a pair of legs every bit as artistic as those of one of the country’s famous white horses shown in the background.

“It seems the Thames Valley Police employ an even bigger idiot than Anderson,” Sherlock was grousing meanwhile, waving the remote with the horrified expression of a fairy godmother who’s just discovered her magic wand has gone on strike. “A tribe of Anglo-Saxons fleeing the Vikings would have done less damage to the scene. There’s…”

What was there was likely to remain a mystery for a shudder passed through the consulting detective’s lanky frame. He reeled forwards and backwards a few times, teetered, and, with the sorrowful groan of a giant sequoia tree cut at its roots, crashed face forward into their rug. The remote, slipping from his suddenly powerless hand, bounced on the floor and switched off the television on its second landing.

“Sherlock!” Shopping forgotten, John covered the six feet between the door opening and his flatmate’s prone body in one leap.

“Sherlock,” he repeated, shaking his friend by the shoulder and feeling for a pulse with anxious fingers. The steady thump of a sound heartbeat stalled the worst of John’s consternation and a loud gasp followed by an almost contented sniffle convinced him there was no need to call an ambulance. To all appearances Sherlock had fallen asleep mid-rant. As he had spent the better part of last night adding to Matt and Ryan’s marriage troubles by practicing Bartók’s first violin concerto after a harrowing five days’ chase of a child smuggling gang, the sudden urge had John’s full sympathy.

In the past John had discovered for such a skinny bloke Sherlock was surprisingly heavy so he didn’t even consider moving him, even though his flatmate couldn’t have chosen a more inconvenient spot for his afternoon nap if he’d tried. Instead he plucked Sherlock’s favourite cushion and the Afghan from the sofa and arranged those under and over the lightly snoring sleuth. Satisfied Sherlock was as comfortable as could be for someone sleeping fully clothed on a threadbare rug he put away the shopping, apart from the pizza, which he put in the microwave.

Fifteen minutes on John was in his chair with a can of beer, his dinner and the latest John le Carré novel, feet propped up on Sherlock’s calves, which turned out to be a handy footstool. He was fully prepared for a few hours of peace and quiet, when his phone rang. At first John ignored it but when, after having completed the cycle through voicemail, it started ringing again, John lifted his feet of their human bench and directed them to his jacket, which he’d hung on its hook earlier. Only now did he notice the Belstaff wasn’t hanging beside it but flung haphazardly on the coffee table. This was odd. For all that Sherlock treated their communal living space with the Bohemian disregard of a hippie squatting in derelict Ladbroke Grove premises during the summer of love; he was decidedly finicky about his personal possessions, his clothes in particular.

The mobile began its third cycle of ringing just as John plucked it from his pocket. On reading the caller’s name, blinking up at him from the display, he frowned, recalling his conversation with Mrs Hudson and fearing he was about to be burdened with the consequences of a maniacal Sherlock whirling through Barts pathology laboratory.

“Hello Molly,” he answered cautiously.

“Oh, hello… John? This is John speaking, isn’t it?” the pathologist’s tremulous soprano stuttered.

“Well, seeing as you phoned my number, who did you expect?” John re-joined.

“Haha,” she guffawed, tons of embarrassment surging along the line all the way from wherever she was to 221B Baker Street. “You’re right. Eh, I meant to ask, is everything okay with Sherlock?”

John threw the man in question a gander. Sherlock had rolled over onto his side and was clutching the cushion with the devotion of a toddler hugging his pet stuffed toy, a blithe smile suffusing his face.

“It seems like it,” he replied. “He’s asleep on our rug so I can’t ask him.”

“Asleep on your…” Molly sounded aghast. “Did you check his breathing and his pulse,” she added. “Have you put him in the recovery position? Did you ring 999?”

“No.” Hearing Molly’s anxiety John promptly switched to comforting doctor mode. “There’s nothing wrong with him, Molly, apart from exhaustion. Believe me, this isn’t the first time he’s toppled over from sheer lack of sleep. Although he usually makes it to the sofa.”

“Oh, John.” Strangely, the information did nothing to ease Molly’s distress. “He isn’t just asleep, I’m afraid he overdosed.”

“What?” John shouted into the phone, his alarm a worthy companion of Molly’s. “What happened?” Forcing himself to breathe regularly he sidled towards Sherlock and bent over to try and lift the only tightly scrunched eyelid he could reach with ease. Sherlock’s pupil reacted to the influx of light and John’s hand was swatted at, as if he was an annoying fly. Both Sherlock’s heart rate and his respiratory rate were perfectly normal for someone actively enjoying the health benefits of a sojourn in Morpheus’ arms. Apart from the choice of location, nothing suggested anything was remiss with the world’s only consulting detective.

“He seems fine,” John said in unison with Molly’s “He seemed fine when he left.”


Heaving a deep breath Molly began, “He came in this morning, all excited like, well, himself. He wanted to test some pills, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, you know, MDMA. Of course I refused, I was thinking of that brother of his, but then he went all funny and said it took all sorts but he got his kicks from preventing more young people dying from ecstasy rather than cutting them open.”

Her tone fell as she recounted the jibe, which had no doubt been delivered in Sherlock’s customary snide manner.

“Hhmm, not good.” John commented.

“Oh no, he was right, actually. Not about me enjoying all those poor people dying and… but well, there have been an awful lot of them lately, and all from the same cause, a MDMA overdose.”

“Christ, poor bastards.”

“Yes. One kid, he was twelve years old, thirteen maybe. Can you imagine, John, a child that young, dying from an overdose? Sherlock didn’t tell me how he knew and how he came by those pills and I didn’t care. I knew with him looking into it people wouldn’t be dying from those filthy drugs any more.”

“Someone in his homeless network tipped him the wink probably,” John thought aloud. “Then what happened?”

“Nothing much,” replied Molly. “You know what he’s like, eyes glued to the microscope, muttering, using up all my test tubes, ordering me around. I had to attend a staff meeting at four so he had the lab to himself for an hour but he seemed much the same when I returned. All he gave me when I asked how he’d been was a grunt. Shortly after, he strode off without so much as a see you.”

Wincing on Molly’s behalf John said, “I see.”

“Then, as I was cleaning up the lab Debbie Crawford dropped in with steam coming out of her ears,” Molly continued.

“Oh.” Unfortunately, John was well acquainted with Dr Deborah Crawford, head of Barts pharmacy department. A few months ago Sherlock had corrected the woman in front of her entire staff regarding the terminal half-life of Bentazepam. Shortly after, Dr Crawford had got wind of the less salubrious details of Sherlock’s past career as an addict and, to the frequent repetition of the maxim ‘once an addict, always an addict’, been campaigning to have Sherlock banned from the hospital ever since.

“She’d attended the staff meeting as well. When she returned one of her assistants told her he’d spotted Sherlock crossing their floor. Debbie immediately went to check their opioid cabinet. The lock was untampered with but when she went through its contents she found three tablets of heroin were missing.”

“Heroin? Tablets?” John repeated, dumbfounded. “Why would he steal those? There’s hardly a rush—” Sudden realisation silenced him. At his feet, Sherlock snorted and turned onto his other side. “Christ, you think—” His head whirled with the names of famous speedball victims.

“I think you’d better ring 999, John,” Molly replied, gravely. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do, right?”

She ended the call, leaving John staring numbly at the mobile in his hand. Another snort galvanised him into action and he speed dialled 221B Baker Street’s personal emergency number, stored under M.

Once he came round Sherlock would be livid at John for involving his brother but unlike Sherlock John was taking no chances with his friend’s life.


The claim that only a sloth moved slower than Mycroft was Sherlock’s best-loved barb in the perpetual war of attrition he fought with his brother. Whatever the allegation’s veracity, it certainly didn’t hold true when it came to Mycroft’s direction of his minions. John had barely returned his phone to his pocket when an ambulance screeched to a halt in front of Speedy’s and a couple of heavy-set personnel charged up the seventeen steps and into the living room.

In less than ten seconds Sherlock was strapped to a gurney and being carried down the stairs with John hurrying to keep up while struggling into his jacket and yelling at Mrs Hudson they were taking Sherlock to the hospital.

Two days later Sherlock was still asleep and John was certain the seat of the Royal London’s Hospital visitor chair he’d been camping in, for all its comforts, would remain imprinted on his rear for the rest of his life.

Initial tests had confirmed Molly’s diagnosis of Sherlock self-administering an almost lethal dose of heroin to counter the effects of an equally fatal dose of MDMA he must have swallowed earlier.

Amazingly, as far as could be determined Sherlock’s vital functions seemed unaffected by his self-doctoring. His body responded satisfactorily to every possible test, save for the crucial one of actually waking up. Each time John tried to rouse him Sherlock would roll onto his other side, mumbling distractedly. John didn’t catch any actual words but even these vague mutterings bolstered John’s morale and encouraged his belief Sherlock might escape this round of experimenting with death unscathed.

“Yet another example of my brother’s extreme foolishness,” Mycroft commented in reproving tones during his second visit, but the anguished twitch of the lines in the corner of his left eye belied his censorious observation.

“Silly, silly boy,” Mrs Hudson lamented, her fingers clasping the hand free from IV-lines and sensors. “Sacrificing his health to help others and still people will call him names. It’s not fair.”

For his part, John’s opinion regarding Sherlock’s reasons for dousing himself with ecstasy veered along less benign courses but he saved those arguments for the shouting match he and Sherlock would enter once the latter was hale and hearty again.

“Mrs Hudson is right, though,” argued Molly. She’d arrived staggering under a bunch of yellow roses, which now took pride of place on Sherlock’s bedside table. The abundance of golden blossoms effectively diminished the single red rose the colour of blood that had materialised there during a quick break for the loo and been stymying John ever since, especially as the discreetly elegant card attached to its long stem bore nothing but a svelte W.

“Come on,” John said. “I agree he managed to stay clean for a long time but in the end this proves…”

“…Nothing,” Molly interrupted with uncharacteristic vehemence. “Apart from his dedication to his work. I was with him for the whole day, John, watching his frustration grow by the minute. I admit taking that MDMA was a stupid thing to do but… but because of his past he must have reckoned himself immune to the worst of its effects. I just wish he hadn’t waited until I left. He must have been so afraid, all alone and with his heartbeat going through the roof. You’ll have to agree taking the heroin did make a weird kind of sense.”

“Weird, yes,” John latched onto the word. “As weird as consciously swallowing a death pill.”

“He was trying to help people,” Molly maintained stubbornly.

John would have loved to hear the opinion of a fourth person who would certainly have visited if circumstances had permitted. However, Sherlock’s idiotic/heroic (the adjective of choice depending on the observer) action coincided with a last-ditch attempt at saving the Lestrade marriage by means of a romantic getaway in the Berkshire Downs so he had to comply with waiting another four days for Greg’s view on this novel drug test his consulting detective had developed.


After Greg’s rather lengthy exposé over a pint of bitter on his determination to turn the holiday into an astounding success, the last thing John expected was for the DI to contact him.

“What’s up with Sherlock? I’ve sent him forty-three texts over the last six hours.” Greg’s harried tone told John Oxfordshire’s gently rolling hills had done little to level the rocky road of his relationship.

“He’s asleep,” John answered and went on to explain what had happened.

“Bloody hell,” Greg swore. “Of all the stupid things to do… But he will be all right, won’t he?” he enquired, his basic decency and sincere affection for Sherlock overriding his almost constant exasperation with the younger man’s antics.

“There seems nothing seriously wrong with him apart from the fact he won’t wake up.”

“Bloody hell,” Greg exclaimed again. “Jesus. I hope this doesn’t mean we—”

“What did you want him for?” John cut in rather more brusquely than he’d intended but to have Greg voice his own darkest fears was the last thing he needed right now.

“I guess you haven’t had a chance to see the news,” began Greg. “It’s these murders, here in the Downs. Right up Sherlock’s street. There’s four of them now, all with their head chopped off.”

“Jesus,” John breathed. “How?”

“We don’t know. A sword, most likely. One blow at terrible speed. Nothing to connect the victims except for the fact they were all killed around midnight outside in the fields.”


“Yeah. You know I’m on holiday and this isn’t the Met’s division anyway, but an old mate of mine, Toby Gregson, is with the Thames Valley Police and he rang to ask for me to try and get Sherlock onto the case. The whole county is in an uproar and Toby’s at his wit’s end. He was counting on a few quiet years before his retirement, not a high-profile string of cold-blooded murders.”

“Yeah,” John sympathised and continued in a louder tone, carefully watching Sherlock’s face. “Four murders you said?”

A large part of him had expected the mention of a murder enquiry would rouse his friend as if by magic and was disappointed when Sherlock’s features remained impassive.

“Yes,” Greg confirmed, naturally oblivious of John’s ploy.

“Well,” John sighed. “I’ll tell him the minute he wakes up but perhaps you’ll have a breakthrough before that.”

“Hardly likely.” Greg sounded as downhearted as John felt. “We’re stumped. And Karen is livid. But I can’t very well leave an old mate in the lurch, can I?”

“No. Of course,” agreed John, his brain ferreting around for a few words to boost the other man’s morale. “Perhaps you should buy her a few dozen red roses once this is over,” he came up with in the end. “I hear they work wonders.”


Naturally, Sherlock chose to wake up at the worst possible time. Mycroft was just bending solicitously over his brother’s face to brush back an errant curl when Sherlock opened his eyes and immediately closed them again with a loud exclamation of disgust.

“For God’s sake, Mycroft. What do you think you’re doing?”

Mycroft froze, fingertips hovering an inch above his younger sibling’s brow. Then, with a tremendous show of dignity, he drew himself up to his full height and cast Sherlock a pointed cold look.

“Hello, brother mine.” His tone could have halved an iceberg. “Welcome back from your little trip. I trust you had fun.”

“What the…” For a moment Sherlock seemed confused, then he lashed out, “It was an experiment. Fun had nothing to do with it.”

“Of course. An experiment. I’d forgotten that’s your preferred term for indulging in whatever vile substance is at your disposal. How foolish of me. My most sincere apologies,” Mycroft replied with suave insincerity. Behind his back, hidden from Sherlock’s view, the umbrella swung portentously, like a pendulum in an Edgar Allen Poe story whose ever-widening arc boded imminent doom.

“All right, you two, stop it.” John entered the fray, brandishing his penlight with a doctor’s authority. “Sherlock, how are you feeling?”

“I was fine until I caught sight of him.” Sherlock glowered at Mycroft who heaved a sigh that denoted decades of putting up with a galling younger sibling.

“It seems my little brother has come through his ‘experiment’ unscathed,” he addressed John. “And wholly unrepentant,” he added for Sherlock’s benefit.

“Shouldn’t you be off starting a war somewhere?” snubbed the former patient, whose wan looks were speedily improving thanks to the heat of the argument. “Or stuff yourself with cake at some ghastly gathering for supercilious bores.”

“Oh, do grow up,” Mycroft deflected. “Any five-year-old would rather bite his tongue than resort to such a puerile repartee. And—” The umbrella was raised threateningly as if it was a Neanderthal club rather than a swathe of ridiculously expensive silk furled around an elaborately polished length of Malacca cane. “Please remember our agreement next time you decide to alleviate your perpetual ennui through the aid of illegal substances. If it hadn’t been for Miss Hooper’s excellent deduction and swift action you’d probably be reduced to a permanent vegetative state. Which might be an excellent means at keeping you out of mischief.”

A long time ago – when his acquaintance with the Holmes siblings and their interaction was still fresh – John would have winced hearing such harsh words and have spoken up on Sherlock’s behalf. Now – better aware of the lay of the land – and relieved to discover Sherlock’s health miraculously undamaged, John was inclined to let Mycroft vent his anger and worry, all the more because in this he heartily concurred with the elder Holmes’ feelings.

“Oh, please.” Sherlock bared his teeth at his brother and spoke directly to John. “John, as my doctor I want you to order this pompous clod out of the room. His hostility has a detrimental effect on my health.”

John shook his head, gaze flicking towards Mycroft to confirm they were in agreement for once. “Excuse me,” he said, het up his flatmate’s outrageous cheek. “If it weren’t for Mycroft you wouldn’t have a private room to try and order him out of or any health left.”

“Come on.” Sherlock had the gall to pooh-pooh John’s assertion. “I was in full control of the experiment from first to last.”

“As you so adequately showed by face planting into our rug.” sneered John.

“Even I have to sleep on occasion,” Sherlock pouted, obviously deploring this characteristic of his transport. “I was aiming for my bedroom when I was distracted by…” His eyes took on a glassy look and his voice was grave when he enquired, “How long have I been out?”

“You’ve been in a coma for nearly four days,” Mycroft supplied unhelpfully. Thankfully, Sherlock ignored him, too engrossed in whatever he was turning over in his mind.

“How many others,” he asked. “Besides the woman with the dog?”

“What is it now?” Mycroft rolled his eyes. “This dissembling…”

“No,” John intervened, his memory suddenly joining the dots between Mrs Hudson’s rambling chatter, the backdrop behind the pretty BBC journalist and Greg’s phone call. “There is a case, in Berkshire. Four people beheaded in the Vale of White Horse.”

“Four!” Hearing this Sherlock scooted into an upright position and began tugging at the IV drip in his left hand. “The Thames Valley Police are idiots,” he muttered.

“What are you doing?” shrieked John, simultaneously with Mycroft’s rebuking, “They’re highly trained professionals, Sherlock. You can trust them to do the best they can.”

“Am I saying otherwise?” Sherlock snarled, submitting to John’s medical attentions on his hand. “Where’s my phone?” he demanded. “One of Lestrade’s old pals is with the Thames Valley force. The Met’s average IQ got a definite boost the day he was transferred, pity they enrolled Anderson soon after and lowered it again.”

“DI Gregson, you mean,” John enquired, securing a dressing on top of Sherlock’s hand with a piece of micropore.

“Yes. Now did you have Mrs Hudson bring me a shirt… Hang on,” Sherlock interrupted himself. “How do you know his name? He’s from way before we met.” His eyes narrowed. “Ah,” he said. “The romantic restoration week. So that was the last straw, then?”

John nodded. “Yes, Greg sounded knocked for six.”

“So sorry to intrude but may I just check?” Mycroft enquired in a tone as silkily smooth as a pint of clotted cream. “Do you two really intend to go rushing after a murderer four days after Sherlock OD’d?”

For a moment John was embarrassed – but really, Sherlock was fully back to his usual self and his zest every bit as contagious as John’s own zeal for the thrill of the chase. Sherlock quashed his qualms with a disparaging, “If you have nothing else on, brother dear, you may as well make yourself useful and do the paperwork to have me released. Shuffling papers around is your speciality, after all.”

“If you walk out of this hospital now I won’t move a finger the next time you decide to engage in a bout of controlled usage.” With those arch words Mycroft gathered his umbrella and his dignity and strode from the room, chin tipped so highly in the air John was amazed he didn’t bump into the door jamb.

“Now you’ve done it,” he turned to Sherlock whose hand emerged from a shirtsleeve in time to wave him off.

“He always promises but he loves sticking his big fat nose where it isn’t wanted far too much. Come on, John, hand me my coat. We’ve got a murderer to catch.” 


Their cab came round the corner of Baker Street to find Mrs Hudson awaiting them under Speedy’s awning with their luggage, as promised. She was locked in deep communion with Ryan and only said goodbye when John opened the door of the car.

“Such a shame,” she confided as John collected the holdalls. “They’re going on romantic weekend and Ryan had set his heart on Berkshire, but what with these murders they’re going to the Lakes instead.”

“Hmmhmm.” John devoted his full attention to helping the cabbie stowing the bags in the car boot.

“Hello love.” Mrs Hudson bent over towards the back seat where Sherlock sat thrumming his fingers restlessly on his knee. “I’m so glad you’re up and about again. But do you think it’s wise to go chasing murderer so soon after your overdose? We all know you love dashing about but Ryan said…”

The remainder of the conversation was lost to John for the cabbie nearly dropped Sherlock’s smart leather travelling bag into the puddle at his feet.

“Your mate a junkie?” he demanded, his tone rather aggressive for someone working in the service industry. “No smack heads in my cab. I can do without the hassle from the cops.”

“Are you serious?” re-joined John, wishing he possessed but an extra inch of the Holmes’ height and lofty arrogance. “That bloke, a junkie? I’d have sooner called you the King of England?”

“Then why…”

Just then Mrs Hudson was pulling her head out of the door opening with a last entreaty at Sherlock not to succumb to temptation during the case.

“I’d be very sorry for you to have your head lopped off, dear,” she concluded and John jumped onto the reflection as a chance to show something might be the matter with her head through a meaningful wriggle of his eyebrows. The cabbie nodded his understanding and guided her solicitously back onto the pavement, against her protestations.

“My Nan ended the same way, you know,” he confided to John upon returning to the car. “We had to put her into a home, real sad.”

Mentally apologising to Mrs Hudson John shrugged in acknowledgement. “I’m sorry to hear that. And ta,” he said. As the taxi veered away from the kerb and slotted into the traffic John took care to turn and wave at their landlady with more enthusiasm than usual. From now on he would patiently suffer listening to every single detail of the married ones’ ups and downs and ins and outs. For a month or so.


At Didcot Parkway station they were greeted by a subdued DI Gregory Lestrade.

“They’ve just found the fifth,” he announced, sombrely. “A sixteen-year-old girl who’d sneaked out after hours to visit her friend. Jesus, what’s wrong with these people.” It wasn’t entirely clear whether he was referring to wayward teenagers or ruthless killers. Possibly both.

“I’ve put you up in the hotel Karen and I were staying,” he continued, relieving John from the burden of Sherlock’s overnight bag. Sherlock, unsurprisingly, had vaulted from the carriage in one long-legged, impossibly graceful leap, leaving John to deal with such low-down encumbrances as one’s luggage. “Anyway, we’re the only guests. Every booking for miles around has been cancelled. The hoteliers are biting our heads off, no pun intended. Karen left yesterday morning. So that’s the marriage down the drain.”

“Come on, George,” Sherlock shouted, hopping impatiently from one foot onto the other next to Greg’s car. “If there’s a new one we have a small chance forensics hasn’t tampered with the evidence too badly yet.”

“Which evidence?” Greg shot back. “There’s nothing to go on but the victims, poor bastards. But don’t worry, I secured the fourth and the fifth scenes. Even the bodies and heads are still there. We’ve just placed a tent over them to screen them from sight and keep off the worst of the flies.”

“Excellent.” Sherlock rubbed his hands in satisfaction. “Well done, Geoff. At last you’re picking up my methods. It’s taken you appallingly long but better late than never.” He looked exceedingly pleased with his delivery of this covert praise that was veiled as an insult and eyed John expectantly, like a puppy that had just produced a pile of poo smack bang in the centre of a priceless Persian rug and now sat wagging its tail in expectancy of a reward and being cooed over and called a ‘good little doggy’.

“Just ignore him, Greg,” John advised.

“Yeah,” Greg concurred, motioning for John to take the passenger seat. “It’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years. Should have started sooner, I guess.”


The car’s atmosphere didn’t improve during their drive to the Vale. The Met Police official – whom John had witnessed effortlessly hurtling his vehicle down the City’s permanently gridlocked streets during numerous heart-stopping chases after absconding criminals – now pretended to be utterly absorbed by the challenges of miles of gently undulating empty road. Sherlock, meanwhile, sat sulking in the back of the car because John had decreed they would check in at the hotel first.

“Is he really up to it?” Greg enquired in an undertone as they busied themselves with lifting the luggage out of the boot. “I mean, shouldn’t he be in observation or something?”

“I’m as baffled as you are,” confessed John. The open car boot door offered them an opportunity at stealthy observation of their friend who appeared/pretended to be oblivious, intent on scrolling through his phone. “From what the specialist told me the amount of drugs he took would have knocked down a horse but save for a coma that lasted almost four days he seems none the worse for wear. He’s back to his old self, as you’ve already found out.”

“Yeah,” Greg replied, gloomily. “I can’t wait for him to meet Toby. Jesus Christ.”

The hotel’s receptionist handed John two keys with the earnest wish the Vale of White Horse terror would be dispatched ASAP. The nation’s press corps might have descended on the Vale in droves but, though they consumed copious amounts of spirits and Ploughman’s lunches their presence didn’t make up for the loss of income from day trippers, walkers, newlyweds and weekenders. Tourism was the head upon which the Vale depended.

John considered the simile in rather bad taste but he appreciated escaping the item treatment for a change. How ironic this should befall them in a place geared up for catering to every amorous platitude. Should he ever have a chance at dating a woman again this would be the last place he’d take her, John mused after having recovered from the sight of the heart-shaped bed covered by a scarlet satin quilt and an assortment of throw-cushions large enough to put the fear of God into the heart of even the soppiest romantic.

“The bath is ridiculous,” Sherlock complained during their short ride down the lift. “It’s far too big. The water will be cold by the time it’s filled.”

“So, where do we go first?” John changed the subject. “The fourth victim?” Greg, who joined them in the lobby, hummed his consent.

“The fifth is the freshest,” objected Sherlock. “Best chance of gathering unspoilt evidence there.”

“The fourth victim is a happily married father of two young children,” Greg protested. “He’s been lying in a ditch for twenty-four hours awaiting your arrival. We would like to release the body to the family.”

“If they’ve been waiting a day they can wait a few more hours,” Sherlock snapped. “Looking at him first may lessen the chance of catching his murderer. That’s all the satisfaction we can give them now, wouldn’t you agree, Detective Inspector.”

“Yeah, but…” After an admirable start Greg ceased abruptly, probably recognising arguments were futile before the towering force of scientific deduction Sherlock was about to unleash on an unsuspecting populace. “Fine,” he conceded, his posture deflated. “Have it your way, then. She’s not too far from here, just five miles.”

“Excellent, Detective Inspector,” Sherlock replied, with the benign air of a king who’s just received a gratifying tribute of ever-lasting devotion from his lowly underlings. “Lead the way.”


No one but the world’s only consulting detective wouldn’t be upset by the contrast between the abject cruelty of the crime scene, the pastoral loveliness of the surroundings and the victim’s youth. In Afghanistan John had strived to relieve the worst effects of human capability at damaging other lives. None of those countless wounded and dead had struck him as much as this girl, mowed down in the lane behind her home.

At Sherlock’s instigation the white tent was removed. He declared he needed an unspoilt view of the scene. John expressed some anxiety on behalf of the parents, which Sherlock duly ignored.

“Don’t worry,” Greg grunted. “Toby’s sergeant is with them in the front room.” Together they watched Sherlock, who had whipped out his magnifier and was now scrutinising a part of the hedge that ran along the lane. To John it looked like any ordinary country hedge, green with lots of flowers. “The garden runs for a good fifty yards,” continued Greg, motioning vaguely into the direction of a house they couldn’t discern through the screen of various shrubs and trees. “The rest of the family have their bedrooms at the front of the house. They never heard a thing. Poor folk, the parents are mad with grief. If possible, we should prevent Sherlock talking to them.”

“Well, you know what he’s like,” John said, watching with fascination as Sherlock’s cool wool-clad knees sank into the mud to grant the sleuth a closer investigation of what was hidden amongst the grass, earth and horse dung that comprised most of the floor. He was already deploring the lane’s effect on his shoes, which were sturdy and sensible, and had probably cost less than a tenth of Sherlock’s trousers.

“Greg, you’re back,” an enthusiastic voice boomed behind their backs, “and you brought Holmes, thank God.” John spun round to see a stout man hurrying towards them down the narrow lane, his arms outstretched in welcome.

“Mr Holmes.” He clasped John’s hand, pumping it up and down vigorously, as if wishing to crank up his detection levels through sheer avidity. “Tobias Gregson, the Detective Inspector leading this investigation. Frankly, we’re at sea. Greg has told me of all your wonderful tricks so I put all my hopes on you.”

“Yes, well. Sherlock is giving it his all,” replied John, angling his head in the direction of the – modestly covered by flowing yards of expensive tweed – rear sticking up behind them. “John Watson. Happy to help.”

“Of course, of course, the worthy companion. You’re welcome too,” Gregson hallooed, preparing to inch past John and Greg and address the leading man directly. He was prevented by Sherlock jumping to his feet with the easy swiftness of a leopard that has just spotted a rival and snarling at the hapless DI with matching feline ferocity.

I know who you are. My study of the mountain of cold cases you left behind at New Scotland Yard told me enough. You’re lazy, incompetent, utterly unfit for police work of any kind. A traffic warden would be ashamed to call you a colleague. The shoddy treatment of this crime scene eclipsed my worst fears of what I would find.”

Here he broke off to heave the breath necessary for continuing his harangue. Greg made use of the pause to step in on his associate’s behalf.

“You can hardly blame Toby for last night’s downpour, Sherlock. Remember, she wasn’t found until this morning.”

“Six pair of different shoes left their marks since then,” the detective seethed. “Here is the imprint of the mother’s trainers, galloping about, but that I can allow. These marks however… Where do you find your forensic experts… at the local kindergarten? Or no, the average two-year-old would have…”

“Yes, thank you,” John interceded. Unlike Sherlock, he had been watching the Thames Valley Police DI during the tirade and noticed the man’s colour turn from a healthy rubicund to a decidedly unwholesome purple. From the way he balled his hands John concluded they were on the brink of an unprofessional tussle. He was ready to concede this would strengthen Sherlock’s arguments but the shuffle would also have a detrimental effect on the already wrecked crime scene and likely result in Sherlock’s re-admittance to the hospital. John’s flatmate might be more than twenty years Gregson’s junior and a master at Baritsu, boxing and fencing but the irate DI had at least two inches, eighty pounds and absolute motivation to commend him.

“I warned you.” Greg had grabbed Gregson’s arm and spoke to him in urgent, soothing tones. “I totally understand you want to punch him but it will just make him worse. Just turn a deaf ear to the insults and listen to the deductions. That works best.”

Between them Greg and John managed to enforce a frigid entente. Sherlock declared the scene had provided him with all the clues left to gather by non-idiots and expressed a wish to explore the fourth crime scene. Gregson swallowed his pride and offered to chauffeur them. His car was larger than Greg’s and the victim was cut down at the Vale’s other end, near Woolstone.

Had circumstances been different John would have derived some pleasure from the journey. Most of Sherlock’s cases confined them to London, which was only logical given the fact the metropolis housed more than a fifth of the country’s population and an even larger amount of vice and folly. But John always enjoyed their ventures in the countryside, despite the often sad occasion that warranted them.

They were halfway down Uffington’s narrow streets when Sherlock cried out for them to stop.

“John and I will be having a drink,” he said, pointing backwards at the building they’d just passed. This, John saw when he turned in his seat, was indeed a pub, one of those quaint rambling edifices that served so nicely in BBC historical dramas to convey a sense of merry olde Englande.

“What?” Greg and the plagued Thames Valley DI exploded in unison and John considered it necessary to add they’d better have a look at the fourth scene first.

“Why?” Sherlock countered. “Whatever we could learn there has long been destroyed thanks to a certain someone’s ineptitude.” Through the rear-view mirror he cast Gregson a withering look that was instantly doubled and returned but glanced off Sherlock’s person like water off an otter’s pelt. “The landlord and his wife will be a prime source of local gossip and peculiarities. Until another body turns up our best approach lies in gathering information. You two can stay in the car. You’ve got police written all over you and we don’t want to frighten them into silence.”

With that parting shot he threw open the door and legged it out of the car. John shrugged in apology to Gregson and his friend and hurried after his flatmate who stood waiting for him with his customary impatience beneath a jauntily fluttering parasol.

“We’re press,” he instructed John, flashing a card that proclaimed him to be an employee of the Daily Mail. “Our photographer will be joining us later. These people love nothing better than seeing their own name in black and white.”

After the bright glare of the sun outside John’s eyes needed some seconds to adjust to the gloom that prevailed within the house. The first thing he noticed was the bar, built from local stone with an invitingly gleaming beer pump. Behind it the landlord regarded them, arms crossed in front of a belly that proclaimed he wasn’t averse to sampling his own wares.

“Hello sir…” Sherlock began in suave tones, only to be interrupted by a gruff, “You’re press? We’re not talking to you vultures.”

“Press,” Sherlock ejaculated, astonishment and outrage battling for supremacy on his face. “Good heavens, no. Why ever would you think so? Do we look like journalists?”

“Disaster tourists, then,” the entrepreneur deduced. “Even worse.”

“My dear man,” Sherlock laughed. “You couldn’t be wider of the mark. We’re tourists, yes, but Matt and I came down to celebrate the love we found here, in this very Vale, exactly five years ago. Didn’t we, darling?”

He pivoted on his heel and – to John’s ultimate horror – drew him close and planted his lips squarely on the top of John’s head, beaming with the starry-eyed candour of a Mills & Boon heroine. “So sad our happiness should coincide with such sorrowful events. But the police are on it, I suppose. We considered cancelling our reservation but that felt plain wrong. If it hadn’t been for the horse we would never have met. We’d both come down here to admire it but as soon as I saw Matt I had eyes for nothing and no one but him.”

“Oh.” The pub owner, whose profession must have inured him against the trials of dealing with many hours of inane drivel, appeared on the cusp of floundering under this tsunami of humdrum intelligence.

“I really thought of cancelling, you know, when that horrid murder was on the news,” Sherlock confided. “But then I said to myself: ‘Ryan,’ I said, ‘you’re a man. If you cancel now you’ll never be able to look Matt in the eye again and that’s the last thing you want. Besides, Matt will look after you.’ You will protect me, sweetheart, won’t you?”

He cornered John with his most beseeching stare and for all of ten seconds John was afraid his flatmate would go as far as to kiss John right then and there. Thankfully, Sherlock seemed to recognise this would have necessitated John to punch him in the face, thereby rendering the whole farce moot. Instead Sherlock confined himself to gracing the host with a moony smile and John with another look of awe-struck tenderness.

“You’d better not go moon gazing, though,” cautioned the landlord. “Now what will you gentlemen have?”

“Half a pint of your best bitter,” John said immediately. After this recent shock he could do with a beer to sustain him.

“Really, Matt, love,” Sherlock’s tone communicated sincere disappointment. “You know what beer does for your love handles.”

“Nothing a little love won’t massage away,” John retaliated. “I can’t wait for tonight, sugar nuts.” Lifting his glass he drank deeply, observing his flatmate over the rim. The likelihood of him ever showing his face in this local again was negligible so he might as well give Sherlock the works and embarrass him on one of the few terrains where John was more knowledgeable than his friend. Most gratifyingly, Sherlock obliged by blushing all the way up into the roots of his hair.

“Oh, naughty language, darling,” he managed but he’d clearly caught the message and determined to traipse less dangerous paths.

“Even if I hadn’t Matt to keep me warm I wouldn’t venture outside for all the gold in the world,” he laid into the enquiry directly, after ordering a sparkling mineral water for himself. “I know the police are onto it and all, but still it can’t be safe outside.”

“The police.” The noise produced by the proprietor was an admirable imitation of the sounds Sherlock emitted when someone mentioned Anderson in his vicinity. “Idle fatheads, the whole sorry lot of them.”

“Really?” Sherlock pretended sincere surprise. “In London…”

“Even worse,” the owner asserted, brandishing Sherlock’s drink as if it were a Molotov cocktail. “They’ve brought in this copper from Scotland Yard and look at all the good he’s done. Two fresh stiffs… one of them a sixteen-year-old girl.”

“It’s a shame,” Sherlock concurred. “But I can’t imagine they don’t have a clue. Surely there must be something.”

“It’s the horse,” a voice croaked behind them. “That horse is the embodiment of evil.”

“Steven,” the landlord said in a warning tone, at the same time mouthing at John and Sherlock, Way too fond of stories he is. Never mind him.

“Why would you say that?” Sherlock focussed his full attention on the man who’d spoken up, a poorly-dressed pensioner with a wizened head of white hair.

“I saw that, Micky Harrison.” The man shook a reproving finger at the host. “To make amends you may serve me another pint.”

“Steven. Do you think…”

“Another pint, you rascal,” the old man swore.

“Eh, put it on our tab,” Sherlock suggested hastily and hotfooted it to the man’s table.

“Ryan Smith.” He proffered his hand which was duly accepted and proceeded to introduce John. “And the love of my life, Matt Jones.”

“Hello,” John said, taking the old man’s hand while glaring at Sherlock who patted the chair next to him with an encouraging, “Over here, dearest.”

“Steven Commodore. Pleasure to meet you and thanks. Here’s to your health.” Mr Commodore raised his glass to them both, drank and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

“Ah. That’s better, bless you. I don’t mind talking to you. You can’t help our dear Lord made you the way you are though it’s a flaw in His creation. That horse is the devil’s work, I tell you. Everyone says it will rise to dance on Dragon Hill once good King Arthur arises but those are fairy stories, good for putting the youngsters to bed. No—” Their informant lowered his voice, requiring Sherlock and John to bring their heads closer to his and into the oppressing smell of beer that clothed the man like an alcoholic armour.

“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him,” Commodore thundered, finger raised with the authority of a priest admonishing his congregation – an abject assortment of aberrant, wicked reprobates – from the elevated moral platform of his pulpit. “And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

“Gosh, wow,” Sherlock whimpered, eyes wide in a mixture of wonder and fear. “That’s straight out of Game of Thrones, isn’t it, love?”

Completely caught by surprise John almost choked on his beer. The last thing on earth he’d expected was for Sherlock to be up-to-date with this particular segment of mass entertainment. Somehow the notion of Sherlock binge-watching hours of rampant sex, intricate torture and vicious tribal warfare was more disturbing than having him end up in a hospital bed after indulging his taste for various kinds of stimulants and opiates. And this was the man who’d claimed he’d never even heard of James Bond.

“Game of Thrones?” For an instant Commodore’s befuddled face echoed John’s sense of bewilderment. Then insight swept away the dirty rags of confusion and he barked in imitation of a laugh. “Ha, you can say that, you young sinner. A game of thrones between the devil and our Saviour. That horse has been lying there for centuries, waiting for the seals to be broken.”

“Seals, what seals?” Sherlock enquired, seemingly engrossed by this raving claptrap.

“What seals?” the old man repeated, appalled by Sherlock’s lack of general knowledge. “The seals on the Book of Revelation, you fledgling fool. Everybody knows the horse will rise when the Lamb breaks the first seal and search its Master and now it’s found him. The Grim Reaper rides that horse and wields its scythe and mows down everyone standing in his way.”

“Hmm, interesting theory,” Sherlock mused. “Though hardly compatible with Newton’s laws of nature.”

“Newton? Laws of nature?” Commodore shrieked, beery spittle flying from his lips. “Balderdash and poppycock! What are the laws of nature to the Apocalypse? Not that you buggerers would want to know about that. You’ll be the first into the fire.”

“Steven!” the pub owner scolded his customer who replied by a sudden steady devotion to the ale left in his glass.

“I told you not to buy him another pint,” the landlord continued in an almost equally reproving tone to Sherlock who merely shrugged and said, “Oh no, but it’s absolutely thrilling and I’d never heard of it before. I knew about standing in the horse’s eye to meet your one true love of course.” A blush overtook his cheekbones and his lashes fluttered like the wings of a butterfly dancing across a field of gently undulating poppies. “I did that, you know,” he confessed and settled another longing look on John. “And it worked.”

Then and there John resolved he wouldn’t merely refrain from interfering next time DI Gregson – or anyone else for that matter – exhibited a wish to alleviate their exasperation with Sherlock’s conduct by means of their fists, but egg them on with the greatest gusto. He thanked his lucky stars Greg and Gregson had done as Sherlock told them and remained in the car. If New Scotland Yard’s homicide squads ever caught word of this caper the relentless teasing would haunt him for years of annual Met Police summer solstice BBQ’s and Christmas do’s.

“It sure did, sweetie,” he said, and, under the table, drove the toe of his boot into Sherlock’s shin.

“Oh!” Sherlock exclaimed, his wince morphing seamlessly into enthusiasm. “There’s no one in the world happier than us. Only imagine if this tale were true as well. Brr, isn’t that scary?”

“Yeah,” the proprietor agreed in a sombre voice. “We had a craze of punks last Hallow tide, worshipping the horse, idiots. All those stories are nothing but food for ruffians and hoodlums and bad for business. We don’t want those louts here but tourists that actually spend their money.”

“Ha, rhino, the root of all evil,” Commodore screeched. “Money won’t save you when the Four Horsemen ride the earth. I’ve seen them, for five nights now out in the fields. First comes the white horse, and then come the red and the black and the pale horse goes last, just as our Lord revealed to John in the great Book of Revelation. I watched them chop off Amelia Underwood’s head, punishing her for her idleness and vanity. Vile, vile woman.”

“That’s it,” bellowed the landlord. The man’s face had acquired such an unhealthy hue John feared he’d succumb to an apoplectic fit right behind his bar. “Get out! You’ve had enough to drink for today. I won’t have you scaring away my customers.”

“Scaring, ha,” the pensioner muttered, spearing the leaseholder with a mutinous look that he no doubt fancied akin to the evil eye. With some difficulty he got up from his chair and lifted his cane, which had been hanging from the back.

“Miscreants and sodomites, sons of Beelzebub, all of you. But the horse will get you,” he shook the cane at them and limped out of the pub.

“And a nice day to you too,” John wrapped up the sermon. Through the window he watched the old man hobble between the cheery array of picnic tables and parasols, a scarecrow from an ancient hell lost in the twenty-first century’s pleasure dome.

“I warned you, didn’t I?” The proprietor had joined them to clear away the empty pint glass and now threw a glance after the slowly disappearing figure. “Mad as a march hare and the worst is he’s stirring others with his rot. Suddenly everyone is talking of these nags galloping about. Pants and piffle, that’s what I say. I was born and raised in the Vale and that horse doesn’t look different now than it did fifty years ago. No,” he shook his head. “Bad for business, that’s what it is.”

“Obviously,” consented Sherlock, reaching for his wallet. “How much do we owe you?”


Story continued in the next post...

Last edited by ukaunz (July 14, 2016 7:11 am)


     Thread Starter

July 14, 2016 6:51 am  #20

Re: Marvellous Midyear Fics 2016 - read them here!

Safely outside again John went straight for the jugular. “What the hell were you playing at in there?” he demanded. If it weren’t for the landlord and the two police officials observing them he would have stabbed Sherlock straight in the solar plexus with a very pointed finger.

“What? Why?” Sherlock yelped, having the gall to appear confused. At his usual tone he added: “Really, John, it’s hardly my fault we ran into the UK’s sole pub owner uninterested in a little free publicity. I had to come up quickly with something convincing.”

“Convincing?” scoffed John. “What, by pretending we’re a soppy pair of pansies? This is the first case in ages with no one treating us as an item and you have to play the gay card!”

“For God’s sake, John. No one is interested in your perpetual sexual identity crisis,” Sherlock sneered, underscoring his argument with a massive eye roll. “Sentiment is a weakness that undermines even the most hardened heart. They both fell for it and yielded us a trove of information it would have taken us days to uncover otherwise. Thanks to our little stopover the case is as good as solved. All that remains for us to do is find the perpetrator. On that I’ve got some definite ideas that will give Gregson a chance at proving he isn’t a complete waste of valuable space and air.”

“Solved the case? When? How?” spluttered John, flummoxed as ever by the rash leap of Sherlock’s thought processes. Just as predictably Sherlock’s reply consisted of a pitying once-over, followed by a snooty, “Let’s say I got the answer straight from the horse’s mouth.”

“Wait!” John grasped the sleuth’s sleeve to prevent him from bolting for the car. “Game of Thrones,” he asked with a meaningful twitch of his eyebrow.

“I chanced upon it in your browsing history, John,” Sherlock responded. This time he seemed honestly confused and almost hurt by the implication John had considered the notion of Sherlock voluntarily partaking of the fare. “Why you choose to squander your time watching such utter tripe is beyond me but to each his own. Can we go now? We’ve got a criminal to catch, remember?”


When John reached the car Gregson was steaming himself all up to a rant of epic proportions.

“What do you mean, go to the Abingdon station instead of the fourth crime scene,” he hollered, eyes bulging dangerously in their sockets.

“Toby, your blood pressure,” Greg cautioned, with a glare at Sherlock that would have skewered a horse. Sherlock, unsurprisingly, was about to return the honours by a selection of finely honed insults with cherries on top.

“Right,” John jumped straight into the hornet’s nest that until a few moments ago had been a perfectly serviceable family car doubling as a police vehicle. “Let’s pretend we’re all adults here. Especially you.” These last words he directed straight at Sherlock who opened his mouth to protest but – after a quick mental calculus of John’s expression – appeared to acknowledge silence might work in his favour this time.

“Look, Detective Inspector,” John addressed the harassed Thames Valley DI who still sat fuming in his seat. “Sherlock is a drama queen and an arrogant git who likes nothing better than slagging off normal people like me and you. Believe me, I know, I share a flat with him and I feel like strangling him half the time. But he’s also bloody brilliant and incredibly good at what he does and trust me, if he’s telling you he doesn’t need to see the crime scene, he really doesn’t. No one is more interested than him in solving this case, nor more likely to do it.”

“John.” Sherlock shifted in his seat, as if John’s speech had roused the sentiment he always professed to lack.

“It’s all true, Toby,” Greg chipped in. “From the arrogant git part to the bloody brilliant part. The delivery could do with some fine-tuning but he gets you the package and in the end that’s all that matters.”

“I can’t help that you’re all idiots,” Sherlock contributed his tuppence to the dispute, like a defence barrister from hell.

“Not helping, Sherlock.” John stabbed Sherlock in the side with his elbow and perhaps more force than was strictly necessary. Sherlock huffed and wrapped himself tight in the protective chain mail of his Belstaff. The arch of his left eyebrow provided the phrase ‘arrogant git’ with fresh significance. After some mutual glowering Sherlock whipped out his phone and devoted himself to its screen. His whole stance demonstrated he was as mercilessly indifferent to the emotional turmoil raging around his person as the eye of the storm that leaves death and destruction in its wake.

“See what I mean?” Greg said, patting the other DI on the knee.

Gregson grunted. The man’s hands, John noted, were doing unspeakable things to the steering wheel. To the experienced Sherlock-watcher John had become it was plain the DI’s mind was in a whirl, anxiously plunging the depths of his patience in dealing with the infuriating sphinx in the back seat who sat tapping away on his mobile, a secret smile quivering upon his lips.

“Right,” the tormented police officer puffed at last, addressing a spot somewhere on the far horizon. “Right. I’m trusting you, Greg. You’re a good man and the best police officer I know—”

Here Gregson fell silent and John fully expected him to ignite the motor and drive them off to the Abingdon local police post, when Gregson gripped the steering wheel even tighter, as if his hands were latched around Sherlock’s neck rather than an innocent assemblage of plastic and faux-leather. At a louder volume he took up again. “—so if you say I should put up with this fucking big headed prick I’ll do it. For the sake of the victims and their poor families, I’ll do it. But, by God, Greg, I swear, if you don’t whisk this uppity sod out of my frigging sight the minute he’s caught the killer I won’t stand for the consequences. I might bloody well murder the little shit myself! And you know what? They won’t even throw me in prison for it but give me a knighthood!”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Sherlock remarked offhandedly from deep within the folds of his coat. “I know the man who assembles the lists.” As an afterthought he added, “Unfortunately.”

“Erm, I’m afraid he really does,” John interjected hastily, mouthing Mycroft at Greg in the rear-view mirror.

“Eh, yeah, Sherlock’s brother,” Greg explained to his seething colleague. “He’s something terribly secret and important in the Government, all very hush hush.”

“Oh.” Gregson deflated visibly, like a toy balloon landing on a rose bush and meeting an untimely end. “I see,” he said, though his puzzled demeanour indicated he really didn’t.

“Best go to Abingdon,” Greg advised at the gentle tone of a nurse talking to a patient still fuzzy from anaesthesia after major heart surgery. “I’ll contact the team and tell them to wrap up the scene. Look at it this way, we’ll be able to hand over the body to his loved ones much faster than we’d reckoned.”

“Remember to remind forensics to first sew the head back on, Gerald,” suggested Sherlock. “Or the family will be in for a nasty shock.”


To describe the vibes that held sway inside the vehicle as ‘off’ would be putting it mildly. During the half an hour Gregson needed to guide them along the A420 his gaze remained steadily fixed on Sherlock’s reflection in the rear-view mirror.

If he dreaded another firing ambush of infra dig barbs he needn’t have worried. The instant the car started Sherlock switched off his mobile and, tenting his fingers in front of his mouth, retreated into his mind palace. Rather than try to explain to Gregson what was happening John decided to enjoy the relative peace and quiet while it lasted so he dedicated his attention to the beauties of nature that sped past the side-window at a steady fifty miles an hour.

The Phony war ended as the car drew to a halt in front of Abingdon police station. In full flourishing fashion Sherlock flung open the rear passenger door and dashed from the car and into the building, leaving the three of them to fumble for the clasp of their seatbelts. Greg was muttering under his breath but Gregson had let go of previously erected constraints in a new bout of white-hot vexation.

“The devil take that sodding piece of scum. What’s he up to now?”

Inside the bewildered-looking (decidedly fit John couldn’t help noticing) PC peopling the front desk pointed them to corridor that branched off the lobby at the left.

“It… he… that way,” she wheezed, throwing a belated ‘Sir’ after them as they hurried in the direction she’d specified.

The corridor led to an open-plan office that showed a remarkable similarity to those inside New Scotland Yard’s Broadway premises. Packed with humanity and the sounds and smells produced by too many people in a room too small to contain them all, crossing its threshold felt akin to entering Wembley stadium at the precise instant Man United scored the decisive goal during penalty shoot-out.

Walled off at the far end of the place was a tiny cubicle, which, going by the NSY floor plan John reckoned to be Detective Inspector Tobias Gregson’s personal dominion. The nameplate on the glass wall beside the door validated his deduction. Not that he needed the sign. Gregson’s harsh snort of outrage at the sight of the world’s only consulting detective seated behind the ancient steel desk and hammering away at the keyboard was just as conclusive.

“That computer is password protected!” the DI fell upon the personification of everything he’d quickly learned to loathe over the past few hours.

“Please,” scoffed Sherlock, features doused with such an abundance of derision John considered ferreting around for a mop in case it gushed onto the lino. “123456. That’s not a password, that’s an invite.”

“Listen, you…”

Unsurprisingly, Sherlock paid this injunction – issued by a police officer on duty – no attention at all, preferring to switch it instead to the photograph on proud display in a neat silver frame.

“No, you listen,” he smirked. “If you’d possessed as much as an ounce of creativity you might have come up with something more challenging like Linda20 slash 06, or Whitney31 slash 10, or even Amy05 slash 08. Those might have deterred me – for all of three seconds at the maximum – but still.”

Greg’s quiet groan of exasperation put John straight into the picture. The photograph, he grasped, depicted Tobias Gregson’s nearest and dearest and somehow – though the how was beyond John, but then according to a certain someone he was an idiot – Sherlock had deduced their names and birthdays and, because he was the universe’s greatest show-off, decided to toss this intelligence into the DI’s face.

“Jesus, Sherlock” he muttered, shaking his head disbelievingly. On impulse he laid a steadying hand on Gregson’s shoulder. The DI’s weathered complexion had turned puce and his rapid pants indicated he was close to hyperventilating.

“Try to relax,” John implored. “Follow Greg’s example, he’s been putting up with this for years.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Gregson rasped.

“I understand completely. How about a nice cup of tea instead?”

Meanwhile, Sherlock, bored with going the extra mile at riling hapless members of the National police force, shifted his attention back to the computer.

“There you have your chance at making yourself useful at last,” he said. “What can you tell us about Crazy Horse Ltd, Stables and Fun Events, newly established at a Knighton road.”

“Huh,” was Gregson’s eloquent reply.

“Crazy Horse,” Greg said, thought lines furrowing his brow. “Odd name. Isn’t that protected or something?”

“What?” Sherlock’s perplexed expression disclosed the investigation had reached that critical stage where an ignorance of the ins and outs of popular culture dragged down the consulting detective’s formidable deductive powers like a lead balloon. To John, on the other hand, Greg’s mention of the band’s name opened a can of almost forgotten memories of his father, reverently lowering the family stereo’s needle on the latest vinyl proof of musical genius.

“Didn’t they break up a long time ago?” he asked.

“Rumours have it they’re back in the studio,” Greg answered. “Still. ‘Everybody Knows this is Nowhere’ remains the best thing they’ve done.”

“Yeah,” Gregson accorded heartily. “ ‘Down by the River’. Remember Greg?”

The DI’s exchanged a look and then, to John’s amusement and Sherlock’s utter astonishment, lined up for a gig of perfectly synchronised air guitar that would easily have earned them first place at the UKAG championship. If John had been on the jury he would have awarded the pair bonus points for technical merit, mimesmanship, stage presence and airness. The vocals – admittedly – left something to be desired but their reproduction of fretwork, chords, solos and technical moves was one in a million and they held their improvised stage with a charisma that would have rocked the Royal Albert Hall. Loud whoops and catcalls from the admiring audience at their backs accompanied the performance. Phones were whipped out to record this unique event and by the time the ace duo took a bow they were trending on Twitter.

Physically exhausted but mentally rejuvenated the DIs spun on their heels to confront the Commonwealth’s sole figure (though John conceded this may be a moot point as his grasp on Mycroft’s views regarding air guitar as an art form was nil) unable to appreciate the enormity of the event he’d just been privileged to witness first hand.

“Well, that was most enlightening,” Sherlock dismissed their collective explosion of creative ingenuity. “You two have just proven beyond any reasonable doubt what I’ve always contended, that the British CID forces are made up entirely of the biggest morons walking these isles. Are you done now? Can we get on with the case?”

“Yeah,” Greg replied sullenly. Both he and Gregson shuffled their feet like schoolboys caught shoplifting chewing gum.

“Crazy Horse Ltd,” Sherlock resumed fixing Gregson with a death-dealing glare. “Man and wife apparently. Bought the farm three months ago.”

“Hmm. Oh yes, I know.” Flurried by being one up on Sherlock at last Gregson pointed his finger in the air. “Young couple. They organise children’s birthday parties. You know, pony rides, bouncy castles, cupcake contests. Detective Sergeant Gove’s youngest celebrated her eighth birthday there. A huge success, apparently.”

“Good for her. Still, given population statistics it strikes me as a weird location for such an enterprise. Not all of Oxford’s indulgent parents will want to be locked up for almost an hour in a car with a party of overly excited children.”

“I’ve known worse,” Greg duly muttered not quite under his breath, a remark that Sherlock just as duly disregarded.

“Looks like they’re branching out,” he spoke to the Thames Valley DI instead. “They’ve been buying horses, four in just over a month.”

That slice of information had John prick up his ears. Naturally, Sherlock picked up on the resulting slight shift of the hairs around John’s ear lobes and rewarded him with a complicit grin.

Not having visited the pub Gregson was at a disadvantage in judging the data’s possible relevance, choosing to complicate matters by concentrating on vacuous trivia.

“Just how…” he began, his countenance twisting under a vast variety of emotions vying for precedence . “Look here.” His voice veered to pleading. “That’s my work computer, all right? You can’t just use that to… Not without a warrant. The Director of information will have me by the balls.”

“Hardly likely,” flouted Sherlock at his haughtiest.

“Oh, please,” he elaborated when the capillaries in Gregson’s cheeks were filled to bursting for the umpteenth time that day, “not for the reasons conjured by your primitive little mind. No, compared to your so-called Director of information John here is a computing genius who could take Alan Turing himself down a few pegs. The Titanic was better equipped to pull through a collision with an iceberg than your so-called intranet is against the hacking attempts of a determined toddler who’s just been given his first I-Pad.”

“Never mind.” Heroically risking life and limb, John jumped between the warring parties and raised his hands. “That’s enough,” he admonished Sherlock in tones that brooked no argument. “And you too,” he accosted the flabbergasted Gregson next. “Remember, we’ve got a killer to catch. Possibly a pair of them if Sherlock is right.”

“Of course I’m right,” sniffed Sherlock. “I’m always right.”

“Shut up!” John barked.

“There’s no need to shout,” Sherlock countered with the hurt aspect of the most reasonable man on the planet.

“Listen, Sherlock,” John tore into his friend. “Could you for once in your life try stop pissing off every single person in a five mile radius and Shut The fucking Hell UP!”

He accompanied his command with a glower that, in the best over-the-top Hollywood tradition, would send a swarming host of cruel and bloodthirsty aliens from some as yet undiscovered galaxy, hell bent on dealing death and destruction to terrified humanity, scampering for their outer space high-tech invasion fleet. The vermin were about to escape unscathed when the unassuming but fearless, jumper-clad hero saved the day by ambushing and eliminating the aliens in in an eardrum-shredding finale that would leave the audience craving the sequel. All the scenario lacked was a pretty lady who’d swoon into the leading man’s arms over the smoking corpse of the aliens’ commander. And no, in spite of the virulent gossip making the rounds of NYS's offices and Mrs Hudson’s most fervent hopes of show boating her own pair of married ones Sherlock didn’t fit that particular bill. Even though he was currently gazing at John with the awestruck expression he generally reserved for feats of his own genius.

“Jeez’, John,” Greg commented, impressed. “Do you do lessons? If you did, half of Greater London would be clamouring at your doorstep. You could charge them, you know, live high off the hog in no time.”

“Very funny, Gavin,” Sherlock made himself heard, but his bearing had lost its usual brazenness so John let it go.

“What’s the plan?” John changed the subject back to the why and wherefore of their get-together inside the tight confines of Gregson’s office.

Sherlock’s smile surpassed even the most supercilious, stuck-up smirk John had ever seen on his hoity-toity elder brother’s face for sheer superior smugness.

“It’s brilliant,” he said.


For all its brilliance Sherlock’s plan sported at least one serious flaw and John was presently stuck slap-bang in its centre. The clump of nettles Sherlock had selected for an observation post had wriggled its way into John’s clothes to stroke his skin with a fiery passion John had seldom encountered before. It took every last shred of willpower and military training not to jump up and break into a mad warrior dance that would have put John Travolta to shame.

To make matters worse the nettles’ torment, which was driving John nearly insane, had no apparent effect on Sherlock. The git had probably unburied some ancient tantric yoga technique from his mind palace that helped him pretend he wasn’t sprawling on their itchy hiding place but the familiar bumps and dips of their old sofa back at 221B Baker Street. Or perhaps, thanks to on and off stints of ingestion of every sort of upper and downer nature’s generosity and human ingenuity had produced his system was permanently insentient to tactile stimulation.

John sighed and, with the silence of an adder slithering across the desert floor, shifted in search of a spot with less antagonistic leaves.

“John,” Sherlock hissed instantly.

John sighed again, wishing half-heartedly he’d left Sherlock to his own devices and stayed with Greg and Gregson who were probably clinking their glasses for their first swig of The Fox & Hounds mouth-wateringly delicious ale right this moment. Not that he’d sling his hook from Sherlock’s side but every now and then the notion looked tempting.

An hour earlier the DI’s had dropped them off at a distance of two miles from the farm and gone on to set up base at the Uffington watering hole. Sherlock had dismissed their offers of assistance, stating that John and he best worked alone. After a brief verbal tussle Greg had yielded but not until he’d extracted Sherlock’s promise not to do anything stupid and call for intervention the minute the situation required police assistance. The DI must stock lashings of faith in humanity in general and his consulting detective in particular to believe Sherlock would heed his pledge. Or maybe he was just hoping for the best.

Night’s canopy had descended completely during their walk to shield them from wary eyes during their reconnoitring of the farmyard. The farm’s windbreak served as an excellent cover but unfortunately it didn’t run around the whole property, hence their current off-putting position.

One particularly belligerent stalk embarked on an incursion in the vicinity of John’s belly button.

“Christ,” he muttered, escorting the expletive with a dead-glare in Sherlock’s direction, promising a close encounter with John’s fist if he so much as dared to comment. Quite apart from the fact their vanguard spot left much to be desired the necessity for being quieter than the family of field mice roaring happily somewhere in the vicinity of his left ear struck John as unnecessary. The farmyard lay slumbering silent and serene beneath the starry sky, the contours of its outbuildings blending in with the surrounding black hills. For the half an hour they’d been surveying the empty wasteland not so much as a stalk of grass had moved. Not a beam of light peeked from behind the farmhouse’s drawn curtains, the owners presumably carousing in the Land of Nod after a long day whiled away decorating cupcakes with a crazed band of chattering and giggling pink-apparelled eight-year-old girls. John heartily felt for them. Nothing in the peaceful scene indicated the Apocalypse was about to erupt.

“Ssshh.” Sherlock held his forefinger to his lips. Now John heard it too. The low rumble of a heavy vehicle, still far off but steadily approaching. He looked over his shoulder. Their position gave them a clear view of the only road that led to the farm but his eyes didn’t discern the yellow band of the vehicle’s headlights he expected to see. Beside him, Sherlock nodded, eyes glinting with wicked glee.

“And there,” he whispered.

Indeed a lamp sprang to life on the house’s first floor, soon followed by a trickle on the lower floor until the farmhouse was a blaze of radiance. John’s light-deprived eyes were still adjusting to the sudden influx when the front door was thrown open wide. Against the yellow backdrop stood a man’s silhouette. After peering left and right he walked down the yard, guiding himself along with the aid of his torch and took up position at the head of the driveway.

A few minutes later a medium-sized van trundled up the driveway. With its black paint and its headlights and tail lights switched off it was nearly invisible in the darkness. It halted close to the large outbuilding nearest to John and Sherlock’s surveillance post. Maybe Sherlock hadn’t chosen so badly after all for when the driver jumped out of the van and the men greeted each other they could hear every syllable of the ensuing conversation.

“See anything?”

“Nah. Some out of the ark geezer walking his dog near Woolstone and a pair of pissed feck wits in Ashbury.”

“Hhmm. Do you reckon we should ride again? Scare the living daylights out of those geeks once and for all?”

“Not now, no. There’s always dipsticks don’t have the frigging brains to get the hang of what’s good for them. Chop off their flaming nut and they still don’t get it.”

“Yeah. Best lie low for a patch. Every booking for miles around has been cancelled so we’ve got rid of those bleeding hikers and day trippers.”

“Day trippers. Hah.”

“Any headache dumping the load?”

“Nah, that old mine works like a charm. We’ll be living the life of Riley long before we’ve filled the shaft.”

“Belting. Well, come on in. Grub’s all set.”

“Ta, after lugging those fucking vats I could eat a scabby horse.”

Together the men went into the house and the front door fell to behind them with a loud thud.

“Well,” Sherlock said, his baritone warm with smug relish. “That was most illuminating. Almost as good as a confession.”

“Yeah, brilliant. Except for the total lack of evidence of whatever they’re up to. You heard them, whatever it was they gave it the bum’s rush so Gregson won’t find a thing when he alights with a search warrant.”

“John.” Sherlock sounded sincerely disappointed in John’s cognitive abilities. “Their lingo, though offensive, was plain as day.”

“Fine.” Briefly, John debated the benefits of grabbing Sherlock by the uppity neck and scrubbing his swaggering gob through the nettles. Huge as those rewards towered in John’s mind, luckily for Sherlock common sense prevailed and he settled for gritting his teeth and heaving yet another deep sigh instead. “Fine, Sherlock. It may be plain to you but it sure as hell isn’t to me. Could you come off your high horse and explain. You know, for those whose last name isn’t bloody Holmes.”

“Just Holmes, John. Come on, I’ll show you.” Sherlock leapt into a crouch and slipped into the night as stealthily as a tiger patrolling its territory before John had a chance to stall him.

“Come on, John,” his whisper was rapidly disappearing.

Swearing under his breath John blundered to his feet and hurried after Sherlock. Free from the nettles’ scourging stalks at last the marks they’d planted all over his skin began itching worse than ever. Half round the twist with agony John nearly bumped into Sherlock who’d ground to a halt behind one of the numerous buildings that littered the edge of the farmyard.

“Listen,” Sherlock said. Shielded from the sparse moonlight as they were in the building’s shelter John could still see the grin on the sleuth’s face through the glee that laced the word.

John listened. After a while he heard a thump, the reverberation of a kick against wood and a loud snort. They’d ended up behind the stables.

“So?” John turned towards Sherlock. “Surely, you didn’t buy that senile plank’s ravings. Do you really expect we’ll find the four horses of the Apocalypse in there?”

Rather than meeting the challenge Sherlock quirked one eyebrow so eloquently a blind man would have noticed. “Let’s have a look,” he suggested and quick as lightning he was off again, darting around the structure on feet as nimble as a fairy’s in some ancient dark tale, leaving John the choice to follow or fend for himself.

“Christ, you nutter,” John cursed but scrambled after Sherlock nevertheless, steering his way along the structure’s walls with his left hand. Upon encountering a gap his fingers groped until he grasped this was the entrance. He sneaked inside and pulled the door to behind him. Soft snorts greeted him.

“Sherlock,” he called out as loudly as he dared.

“Over here, John,” Sherlock replied, his voice coming from somewhere down the stables.

“Easy boy, easy,” John heard him say next in an uncommonly gentle tone. “Yes, you like that, don’t you?”

As John walked down the passage he was surrounded by the warmth of bodies packed close together. The aroma of horses was almost overwhelming but it was a clean and healthy smell, warm and comforting. Clearly, these stables were mucked out regularly and the animals well taken care off. Which really didn’t coincide with one’s general ideas about ruthless criminals.

At the end of the stables Sherlock was standing in one of the boxes, patting a horse on the neck and letting it nibble something from his palm.

“Sugar,” he explained. “Lifted it from Gregson’s desk. He could do with some dieting advice from Mycroft anyway.”

“Are you saying Mycroft’s diet is working?” John asked disbelievingly.

“Oh, he’s still fat but he was gross before. Don’t snitch on me, will you?” Sherlock answered. “But first I want you to meet the red horse. Yes, you’re a lovely horse. Just wait until John sees you,” he added. John surmised the last two sentences were addressed to the horse rather than his person.

The beam of Sherlock’s small Maglite lit up the horse’s left rear leg to reveal its glossy chestnut coat.

“He’s in his prime,” Sherlock said. “Beautiful animal. But they all are. Look.” He ambled out of the box and, after carefully shutting the door behind him, proceeded towards John, shifting the torch’s beam to illuminate the white horse, the black horse and the pale horse – a magnificent grey beast – successively. From what John could glimpse these four horses were the crowning glory of an assortment of so-so nags and bog standard ponies, several of which bared their teeth at him in passing. Not that John was very knowledgeable about horses. The closest he’d ever come to them was when he was thirteen and kissing Bonny Prince – who was pony mad – on her bed beneath a wall that was papered from top to bottom with pony posters and photographs ripped from girls magazines.

“And to top it all off…” Sherlock’s tone had just redefined the meaning of the adjective ‘patronising’ and imbued it with formerly unimagined significance, “…behold the murder weapon.” He angled the beam upwards and let it glance off a scythe that hung from a hook next to the door. The curved, wickedly sharp steel glittered forebodingly.

“Still, this doesn’t prove anything,” continued Sherlock in a sobered up voice. “They keep a very clean stable. That scythe will have been scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Forensics won’t find as much as a fingerprint on it. Suspicious in itself but mere conjecture won’t put anyone behind bars. For that we need motive. And I know just where to find it.”

Before John could blink Sherlock had dashed past him out of the stables and across the yard.

“Jesus, you daft twit, could you stop doing that?” John grumbled, chasing after his long-legged flatmate as fast as his far shorter legs allowed him. Sadly, he wasn’t fast enough. Something heavy whacked his lower back and he nose-dived straight into the mud. The earth’s black surface surging upwards to meet his face was the last thing he remembered before darkness engulfed him completely.


“…coming round. There the sucker is. Wakey, wakey, dick wit.”

Groggily, John tried to pretend he was still unconscious but he must have twitched an eyelid or done something else to give the game away for the voice laughed cruelly.

“No use shamming. Attaboy, show your Uncle Keith those peepers.”

And there was the other major flaw in Sherlock’s brilliant scheme. Somehow it never was the consulting detective but always his flatmate who ended up bound to a chair with a crackpot psychopath looming over him threatening to rip out his nails, crunch his bollocks, slit his throat or subject John’s physique to some equally dreary but highly unpleasant form of torture.

Eyes still firmly shut John weighed his options. His ankles were tied firmly to the chair’s legs with duct tape, a substance he loathed for its tendency to cling to and wrench any stray hairs. Indeed, the thugs had neglected to pull down the hems of his trousers over his socks before winding the tape and he could feel it tugging at the sparse hairs covering his luckless ankles, which had only just recovered from the arrant vegetation attack. What John had done to deserve this, apart from serving his Queen and country, saving the lives of numerous people at the various hospitals where he’d worked, helping old ladies cross the street and collecting his flatmate’s suits and shirts from the dry-cleaner’s, he’d probably never find out.

The state of his hands, joined as tightly together as a bunch of asparagus in Borough market, and tethered to the back of the chair with what felt like approximately a mile of duct tape left John in no doubt Uncle Keith & Co knew their – unsavoury – business. If Sherlock was right – and, given John’s present position it looked like he probably was – these heavies had also cold-bloodedly sent five people to meet their maker before their time was up. Perhaps it was best to confront them with his eyes wide open. Besides, he wanted to know if they’d got hold of Sherlock as well.

To his immense relief the room he was sitting in contained but three people: himself, Uncle Keith, whose overall appearance didn’t improve upon closer acquaintance, and a seedy individual with a ferrety face who was snarling insults into a mobile.

“I clocked another geezer, you bitch. He’s out there I tell you. ’Course he’s not hanging around. He’s doing a runner. Get on that nag and go after him.” He disconnected the call. “Scatty cow,” he muttered to himself.

“No rush.” Uncle Keith chuckled; a gruesome noise Count Dracula would have been hard pushed at besting. “Candy’s a jim-dandy cunt but an ace with that sickle. That gormless fucker is as dead as a doornail.”

“Yeah, but what was he snooping around for?” ferret face spun round and invaded John’s personal space at distressing speed. “Who are you?” he snarled, his close proximity to John’s nose unveiling he suffered from a severe case of halitosis.

“You don’t really expect me to answer that question, do you?” John replied. Hearing their side of the phone conference had got his hopes up considerably. Sherlock was alive and free and if anyone in the Commonwealth could outrun and outwit a fiendish scythe-wielding murderess it was the great Sherlock Holmes himself. Or so John briefed himself for the alternative was unthinkable.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Uncle Keith grinned and dug the steel-reinforced heel of his boot deep into John’s toes, which was a decidedly unpleasant experience.

John shouted, giving it all he’d got. Hopefully the agonised yells together with John’s unassertive countenance hoodwinked Uncle Keith into the belief he wasn’t dealing with a battle-hardened soldier but a faint-hearted wimp. If he managed to ride out the storm he would buy Sherlock enough time to come swooping down with the cavalry hot on his heels. The alternative John simply didn’t bear contemplating.

After a good forty-five seconds John let the screams dwindle to a whimper he kept up for another half a minute. By then Uncle Keith was displaying signs of mounting impatience so John shut up.

“Well,” Uncle Keith threatened.

“Well, sorry and all that but I won’t,” John said. This time Uncle Keith ground the heel as well.

John quickly tired of the game, which had never been one of his favourites to begin with. Worse, Uncle Keith’s limits of restraint turned out less formidable than John had wished for and the nail-pulling stage impended as an option all too soon to John’s liking.

“Wait!” Ferret-face raised his hand. He must have had uncommonly sharp hearing to have discerned anything over the din John had been producing.

“What?” Uncle Keith switched his attention from John’s kneecaps to his companion. “What are…”

Presumably he was about to ask what his criminal associate was about. John never found out and frankly, he didn’t care a hoot. All he cared about was the distressed countenance of his friend that bobbed white as a ghost above the surge of the Firearms Response Team that fell into the room.


“I’m sorry, John. I’m really sorry.”

“Can I have that in writing?”


Perhaps that had been too much to ask for, John contemplated as Greg drove them all back from Wantage Community Hospital to their hotel. Sherlock had gone as far as to give his permission for John to refer to the apology in his blog.

“Your writing style is as clear as mud,” he’d sniffed. “Whereas mine is concise and to the point. It won’t do to have people believe I’m fallible.”

“They’ll believe you’re human, Sherlock, just like the rest of us,” John had replied but decided to let it go, concentrating on getting the knack of his nice, new crutch instead. Greg had chuckled as John came hobbling out of A&E and remarked on the irony of Sherlock’s actions first freeing John from his crutch and then shackling him to one again.

“Uncle Keith, you mean,” John corrected.

“Pardon, yes, Uncle Keith,” Greg admitted. The tired lines round his eyes softened. “Well done, you two,” he said.

And well, given the fact that Sherlock barely escaped from a mad dance with the scythe-swinging Candy by climbing into a tree, after discovering the UK’s biggest MDMA factory to date, John considered the compliment pretty befitting.


When John doddered into the breakfast room the following morning he found a morose Greg staring gloomily at his mobile.

“What’s up?” he asked. “Something wrong with the evidence?”

“Huh, what? No. It’s Sherlock, isn’t it? That evidence is as good as gold. They’ve already confessed, all three of them. Apparently, one of them has a great-uncle who knows all about the White horse and he provided them with the idea. They wanted to scare people off the roads at night so no one would notice them as they transported the waste and the pills. The upsurge in tourists when the season started took them by surprise. All those people driving and walking about when they depended on some peace and quiet. Jesus Christ.”

“I see.” John sipped his tea. Sherlock had already explained this to John while he sat waiting beside John’s bed in A&E. He’d also shown John the handful of pills he’d pilfered.

“I’m convinced they’re the same I tested back in London,” he’d crowed. “These are amazing chemists, John. The product is so pure most people’s system can’t handle it.”

“Thank God it’s off the market then,” had been John’s heartfelt reply. “Perhaps Greg can tot up those deaths to their record to ensure they’ll be locked away for the rest of their lives.”

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, John. Even I will be hard put establishing the link in such a way it will hold in court.” With that, Sherlock’s hand had curled into a tight fist around the pills, strengthening John in the conviction his friend would explore every available avenue to connect the victims in Molly’s freezers to Uffington’s ecstasy plant.

“So, if not that, is it… Karen?” guessed John, buttering a slice of crispy warm toast.

Greg’s face darkened even further. “Yeah. She’s just texted she’s going to file the papers for divorce.”

“Jesus, Greg.” The message itself didn’t surprise John, not after ages of watching the Lestrade marriage teeter on the rim of destruction but the means of communication hit him as particularly uncouth. Greg didn’t deserve this. He was too good a police officer, too decent a human being to be treated with such cruel nonchalance.

“Yeah. It’s…” Greg shook his head. “She’s right, you know. I’m a terrible husband. But I love her, dammit. I do.” He shoved back his chair and made for the door to the lobby, almost running across Sherlock who came padding in, hands deep in the Belstaff’s pockets and deep lines crossing his brow.

“What’s wrong with him?” he asked John. “Last time I asked him for a breather he avowed he’d quit.”

“It’s Karen,” John answered, clarifying at Sherlock’s blank look of incomprehension, “his wife.”

“Oh, what about her?” The befuddled air remained firmly stuck to the sleuth’s features.

“She’s filing for a divorce,” explained John.

“Ah,” Sherlock breathed. “I see.” The puzzlement was instantly wiped from his face in exchange for raffish exultation. “Good. Excellent news. I’m glad to hear it. At last Garrett has managed to disentangle himself from that woman’s clutches. That gives him a chance to turn himself into a better than average policeman. He’s the best of the lot. Under my careful guidance he might yet surprise us one day.”

“Yes, well,” John concurred. “That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose.”


“Don’t bother driving us home, Greg,” John said to Greg as they joined the M25. “Just drop us off at your place and we’ll grab a cab there.”

“Nonsense,” Sherlock decreed from the back seat. “You’re a temporary invalid, John. Climbing into and out of cars is too hard on your knee. “Garner only lives the other side of London so a detour won’t bother him in the least.”

“Sherlock,” John began warningly but Greg waved him off.

“Never mind. I’m in no hurry to return home anyway.”

Greg’s dispirited declaration was met by deafening silence from the back of the vehicle.

The car was still sliding to a halt in front of 221B Baker Street when Mrs Hudson opened the front door and bustled onto the pavement.

“Oh, there you are, dears,” she tittered, scurrying to welcome them. “My brave boys, you’re all over the news. I’m so proud of you. And you too, Detective Inspector, or can I say Greg? Your name is Greg, isn’t it? I still haven’t got the hang of this texting but never mind, dear. You must come in, I’ve just baked my walnut date cake, especially for you. And strawberry tartlets for you, Sherlock love, because you secretly crave them and you’re bound to be hungry after dashing all across Berkshire. But no, John, poor thing, you must rest your knee. Let Sherlock carry those bags. Come on in, Greg, come in. I’ve just put the kettle on.”

Grabbing the powerless DI by the arm she swept him off his feet and into the hallway. With some difficulty John pivoted on his heel to smile at Sherlock, who was following Mrs Hudson’s instructions regarding their luggage like an obedient eager beaver, determined to remain unnoticed in the background.

“Greg?” he prodded.

Sherlock kept a straight face. “Come on, John. I’m the world’s only consulting detective and you sincerely believe I wouldn’t remember the name of my second-best friend?”

“Well, yes, I did actually,” John confessed.

Sherlock eyed him, a smile lifting the corners of his lips and crinkling the skin around his eyes.

“Don’t put it in your blog, all right,” he said, indicating the baggage with a tip of his chin.

“No,” replied John. “I won’t.”

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Last edited by ukaunz (July 14, 2016 7:01 am)


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