noun: repository; plural noun: repositories
- a place where or receptacle in which things are or may be stored.
John sighed and checked his watch again. The last announcement meant he had another twenty minutes to pass in the station. Being bored out of his life because his phone had died (courtesy of forgetting to charge it while he was still at Harry’s) and even if it didn’t, John wasn’t familiar with the idea of passing time looking at a mobile phone screen, which everyone around was him doing. Even looking at the bigger laptop screen (mandatory, because his therapist insists that he has to write a blog) felt like undiluted torture sometimes.
So John failed to understand what could be inside the tiny square of metal, glass and plastic to keep him interested enough. Technology was an absolute unknown territory.
Everyone was busy with their phones. Except the man with the hat at the end of the row who had a newspaper in front of him.
John fixated at him for a few moments, and decided that it was funny. The man looked just like a character out of a film noir, with the whole dark suit and statuesque posture, as if the newspaper was just a pretense and he was actually looking at someone else.
Maybe that was the truth and maybe the newspaper was just a pretense.
Maybe John was just being paranoid. More than likely.
But was he really?
Was it weird that the man wasn’t the only out of place person in the station?
Because it didn’t take long for John’s experienced eyes to see that at least three people in his immediate vicinity didn’t belong in the same category with the rest of the tired, irritated or enthusiastic common faces. To be exact, he became quite sure that their faces were not visible, and that was intentional. They were definitely hiding and waiting for something to happen.
Which couldn’t be good. None of it screamed harmless.
John tried to breathe slowly through his mouth, without being too evident about it. He breathed and tried to understand what could happen in a crowded station. A bomb? Maybe? Should he just try to run? Probably not a good idea. Because that was in no way subtle and was going to attract a lot of unwanted attention.
Then a woman sat on the chair on the right side of John. And John flinched a bit and instantly regretted it. Because the look the woman threw at John, suggested that John was a freak.
Which was not entirely wrong because he was a bit. And it was fine.
But she was lovely, with brunette hair and an attractive face shape.
He could start a conversation if the time was right. He could apologize and chat her up and… it could be different.
Not that it mattered, because John was no one. He was just a common face sitting in a station, flinching at things he should not flinch at. And at any moment something could happen and maybe John won’t even see the end of it.
He would really prefer if everyone around him stopped moving. Because suddenly everything became suspicious.
But nothing ever happens in the way a man wishes, especially John.
Because someone else decided to occupy his apparently empty side. John watched from his hindsight as a tall bloke sat on his left side. He didn’t dare to flinch, let alone look at his direction.
He only noticed a head full of curly hair and a dark coat. The smell of the heady Eau de cologne stunned him for a moment, but only a moment. Because John quickly remembered that before any of the two people claimed the seats beside him, he was planning to slowly excuse himself and find a place where no suspicious men were holding a newspaper in front of their face or pretending to talk into a phone while scanning the whole waiting lounge.
And exactly then, his train was announced. Talk about timing. Maybe the universe didn’t hate John as much as he thought it did.
So he hurriedly stood up and grabbed his bag, letting out a sigh of relief, almost crushing the feet of the woman sitting next to him in a hurry. She muttered something but he didn’t even try to listen or apologise.
A crowd started walking towards the platform and John joined, hanging his backpack over his shoulder, budging into the crowd with his good shoulder first, thanking God that he would be out of the suspicious environment soon enough.
But then he made the mistake of looking around, and felt his insides turning into solid, cold ice.
All the men John was trying to get away from, were magically closer than ever. And what was the most scary of the whole situation was that John could see their faces now, of all four of them. All of them closer now for some unknown reason, although at a great distance from him.
John became sure that he didn’t even want to know about the reason. Because he might have been wrong, but the faces were looking at him.
So John did what he decided was best and ran through the crowd, hearing all kinds of curses from around, and a voice, a deep one which felt like it was directed at him called from behind. Not too loudly.
“Hey you idiot! Stop for God’s sake, that is not your…”
On any other day, John would complain non stop about the amount of people on a train, it usually got too much for him; that many people, the pressure, the shortage of air.
But sometimes a crowd was a blessing and John couldn’t be more grateful. Because the crowd was a protection, because he slipped inside and there he was, lost amongst people.
The train door closed and John gasped for air, feeling heady from all the adrenaline rushing through his system.
The train was surprisingly devoid of any events. It was weird that none of the suited individuals boarded the train. Actually, now that John tried to recall, they looked a little bit baffled.
He kept an open eye throughout his walk towards his flat. The place wasn’t even crowded, it would be easily noticeable if someone followed him. But no one did. Only the ginger cat who was the only neighbour John actually liked, purred when John crossed the hallway. She wasn’t familiar with him yet but somehow accepted this apparently harmless man.
John’s hands trembled trying to find the keyhole in the dark. Someone stole the light bulb in the hallway again. This was not a place he should live in. Because what Ella mentioned in every session was that the environment a person lives in affects the mental state of that person. This was not a place where there was any way to feel hopeful for anything. The dimly lit street corner and the dusty hallway and neighbours who looked like depression and sadness on two legs, were not really ideal for any kind of health, let alone mental health.
But this was the only place he could live in. Army pension, a shattered collarbone and a psychosomatic limp didn’t allow more than that. And going to Harry’s permanently was not an option.
The door opened at last and John stumbled inside the room.
He closed the door with force, locked it and slid down, sitting on the floor and catching his breath, feeling as if there was no strength left in his legs. Trying to understand again what happened in the last twenty minutes.
What should he do? Call the police? But those people were not following him anymore, at least not yet. The police wouldn’t listen to anything and would just brush it away as paranoia, and when they looked at his medical files, they would just pity him because it would eventually fall in the category of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Maybe he could call Harry, in case something happened to him, no one would even bother to look at this sad excuse of a flat if he died inside it.
So John crawled (still not trusting his legs enough to stand), found the socket with his phone charger still plugged into it and connected the phone to the charger. After a few moments, he turned the phone on, watching as the screen lit up. It usually took some time for it to turn on properly.
He turned back and only then noticed something was terribly off.
Not with the room, or anything else which should have been likely.
It was the backpack. His backpack, which he threw down in exhaustion on the floor just after getting inside his room.
It wasn’t his. It almost looked like his. But it wasn’t.
It was new and the tag on it was still intact.
And then John realized why the men were near him suddenly. Of course in a hurry to escape the strangers he picked up the exact thing to attract the strangers. So now there he was, sitting on the floor on a very uncomfortable, itchy and old carpet with a bag in front of him which was not his and which for all he knew could contain the crown jewels. Or a deadly virus. Or a time bomb. Possibly not a time bomb. At least he hoped not. Maybe Necrotizing fasciitis? Worse.
He was fucked beyond his own understanding.
Well if that was the case and he was going to die over a blunder, he could at least see what he was going to die for. That much was allowed.
So he crawled again, this time towards the door and dragged the backpack with him until he was in the middle of the room, at the same distance from the only window in the room and the door.
He slowly opened the zip and peeked inside and instantly felt disappointed and relieved.
There were no crown jewels, not even any suspicious boxes which could contain any explosives. Or anything expensive looking.
There was a notebook. Quite thick and tattered. A flash drive. And oddly enough, a blue scarf, carrying an aroma of something familiar.
The notebook looked like a scrapbook of sorts. Paper cuttings carefully glued into its pages. John had no idea what he was looking for but he started to read and all of them carried the same theme. String of murders, unsolved cases, disappearances, some of them well known. Some of them he never heard of. A crime scrapbook.
Who in their right mind would ever do that? That was all sorts of fucked up.
A loud noise made John jump and before he decided to grab something to hit the intruder or anyone with, he registered what it was.
Just his phone, vibrating like it was the end of the world. If only he knew how to reduce that. Technology wasn’t easy at all.
He put the things back on the floor and crawled again (an awfully lot of crawling in one day), and looked at his phone. The call was from an unknown number. And before he could decide, he was picking it up and saying hello. Without even giving it a thought.
“Is it common for you to mix things up like that? Wonder how that worked in the battlefield when you were dressing up the wounded. Patching up someone's good leg, giving wrong injections.”
The voice from the other side of the phone might have been the smoothest voice John had ever heard in his entire life. But that wasn't the only thing noteworthy. Because the voice also sounded like danger. Because that voice knew about him. And that was a very dangerous thing considering the situation John was in. But at least the voice would give him some answers, because he hoped it was about the bag.
John realized he had no idea what to say to that. Should he ask back? Questions like who are you? Is this bag yours? Am I in trouble? How much trouble? What is in this bag? Who were those people? How do you know about the war? There was nothing on the bag to indicate that. There was only a small journal with his phone number and address...
The voice chuckled. Like the man could actually sense his internal struggle.
John thought that he should just put the phone down at once.
“Dr John Watson, you did not strike me as an idiot. Don't be afraid. I am not the one you should be afraid of.” He assured.
John wasn't so sure of that.
“Who are you?” He asked anyway.
“Well, who do you think I am?” The man snapped now. “I am the guy who was sitting beside you with a bag on which national matters depend. And you, just took the bag and ran with it and now you've attracted more people that you don’t want to attract.”
“I am sorry.” John replied and cursed himself.
“Oh ho, you don't get to be sorry, Dr Watson. What you get to do is to open your door right at this moment.” The voice said calmly.
“What?” John felt a cold shiver running down his spine.
“I am standing outside this sorry excuse you call a residence. Just open the door, for God's sake.”
John looked at the door with horror. It would be easier to see if someone stood on the other side of the door if the hallway had some light. Why was today the exact day someone decided to take the bulb? The hair on his back stood straight, every pore secramed danger.
“No.” John replied as calmly as possible. Trying to not give away how his whole body was vibrating slowly.
“No what?” He could feel the frown through the voice.
“I have a gun. I should tell you that. It’s illegal. But I have it. And I will use it.”
There was a pause at the other side of the line. And when the man replied, his tone had changed. It felt softer, cautious?
“Of course you do. Of course. Should have known that. Idiot. Idiot.” The man was muttering and John just sat there. With a bag of what he had no idea, a situation he had no grasp on. And a man who was constantly changing the tone of his voice.
“You should have known that I own a gun?” He asked.
“Of course. That’s clear as day. I must have missed that while I was in a hurry.” He sounded frustrated. “Rushing never helps.”
“How should you have known that? That I own a gun?”
The man sighed.
“You should just let me in. I promise I am unarmed. And if you don’t, you will be in danger. But not from me.”
“No, I am not unlocking my door.” John said sternly, clenching his left fist in anticipation.
“You have a spyhole, don’t you?”
“Yes. But the hallway doesn’t have light.”
“I have a flashlight. Just come to you door. And bring your gun.”
“My gun?” John’s mouth fell open. “You are asking me to bring my gun? I told you I will use it.”
“I am waiting, Dr Watson.” The man sounded annoyed. “Just do it.”
John had no idea why he was standing up and pulling the gun out of his drawer. He had absolutely no idea why he was approaching the door with his finger on the trigger and why he was listening to a strange man who had just called him from an unknown number.
It must have been the voice, keeping him in a thrall. He knew the answer somewhere. What the voice bore, but better to not think about it right then.
The voice sounded like danger and excitement and fear of the unknown.
Some people do drugs. Easily available, easy to get lost into. John Watson never felt attracted to that. He wished that his addiction was available over the counter.
‘Trust issues’. That was always on the top of the page of his therapist’s notebook.
She was a good therapist. But she really didn't know the whole of John's situation. Well John wasn’t telling her the whole.
There was a light moving in the hallway. Seeping through the crack of the door. And when John put his eye to the spyhole, his heart stopped working for a moment.
He knew the head full of curly hair. And the Eau de cologne from the scarf in the bag. The face, he didn’t. And he blinked his eyes to adjust his eyes to the light. And the face. Which might have been brighter than the light itself.
A gaunt face. Something impossible to ever forget. There was something illuminating in the eyes. It might have been the light from the flashlight he was holding at his face. Or it might have just been his eyes.
The man nodded his head with a look of disdain. Or it could have been just his face. John had a guess that disdain was the normal expression for that man.
Then the man was bringing a leather glove covered hand to his mouth and catching the tip of one glove covered finger with his teeth, pulling it.
A man removing his gloves should not have been so enchanting to look at. Especially considering the situation.
But it was.
John found himself trying to get closer. To look more closely. As the man repeated the process, holding the flashlight with the other hand and then proceeding to remove the other glove.
Then the man stopped. As if thinking what to do next. He looked at the door for a few seconds. Then fished out his phone from a inner pocket of his long coat.
“Dr Watson. I am afraid it’s impossible to remove the rest of my clothing to prove my unarmed state if I don’t let go off my mobile for a few moments. Allow me to do that?”
John took a deep breath.
He could just ask the man to stop. Three things could happen. He could just take his phone and dial the police. A man standing at his doorstep, an unknown man, was suspicious enough. Or he could just let the man in as he was. Which was not a safe option.
Or he could just agree to what the man was already going to do. He could just watch him prove how unarmed he was. That was the safest option. Because he had to know what was happening around him. And only that man had the answer.
“You can proceed.” John replied and realized his voice was croaked.
Thus proceeded with the man putting the phone on the floor, and the flashlight. And John watched as the long, dark coat fell in a heap next. Followed by a jacket.
Then he was picking up the phone and the flashlight, pointing it at his waist. Slender waist. So slender that John could just put one arm around him. Easy as hell.
John shook his head to get the thought out of his head and focus on the waist. No weapon.
“See? Nothing here. And look.” The phone was on the floor again and John was being given a closer look at the coat pockets. Empty ones.
“I don’t have anything on me. Now for your safety, can I come in? You can keep the gun with the safety catch on and everything. If that makes you feel safer.”
“Move back a few feet until your back touches the wall.” John said calmly on the phone and watched as the man did that exactly. Backing until he was standing straight with his back on the wall. Standing so still that it looked like he was a part of the mold and chipped paint. A very unmatched part.
John opened the lock of the door and took a deep breath. And took a few steps backward.
The door opened slowly.
John waited for something to happen. For the man to jump at him. For weapons to begin shooting at him.
None of that happened. No one jumped. No steel blade flashed. Nothing.
Just the man. Now clearer than ever. Because the light of John's room was way brighter than the flashlight. Obviously.
His face was really sharp. And memorable. John wasn't really good at remembering faces which had landed him in awkward positions before. Not remembering a pretty face from the bar one night ago. Or his neighbours. He couldn’t help it.
But that face and man standing in front of him right then, he would never forget that in a lifetime. If he could draw, he would draw that face perfectly even if someone asked him after a month. He had no idea that a face could leave a imprint like that. Making sure that it exists.
He could not forget him even if he tried. And that didn't happen everyday. John had no idea why it was happening right then. Why there was a weird feeling inside, like John was standing in the middle of everything.
“Come in.” John gripped the gun tighter, pointing it at the man standing in the hallway, who was looking really out of place.
The man gave a curt nod, holding his removed clothing in one hand, and the flashlight and the phone in other. And John’s bag hung from one shoulder. That didn’t give John any relief. Stupid bag. He didn’t really want it.
“Close the door.” John ordered in a steady voice. He was scared. A very tiny amount But he wasn't gonna give that away.
“Of course.” The man replied and closed the door behind him.
He was tall. John was standing far from him and that's why it was possible to look at him straight in the eyes. But had he been closer, John would have look up and that man would loom over him.
“Put everything over there. Where I can see them.” John pointed with a nod of his head.
“I was going to do that anyway.” The man said in an even tone. Walking over towards the small table on which John's laptop was and put down everything slowly. As if giving John a good view of his hands, that he wasn't hiding anything. Why was he bothering?
There was an odd mix of distrust and reassurance in that voice and that face. John felt his inside dividing into two equal halves. One of the sides asking John to be calm and listen. The other half telling him to be rational and dial emergency services.
“Sit over there. On that chair.” He pointed with his finger. Proud of himself when his hand didn't shake in nervousness.
The man obeyed. He dragged the chair to face John, his movements calculated, maintaining a constant speed and sat, too gracefully than necessary, making something inside John twist. The man wasn't even flinching in front of John's gun. Like he was absolutely sure that there was no way John was going to shoot. John had less faith in himself.
A still silence hung over the room. John counted thirty eight ticks of the clock before the man broke the silence.
“Okay. I am unarmed. I am sitting. You have a gun pointed at me. That solidifies the fact that I am entirely at your mercy.” He tilted his head and smiled. “You’ve got questions. And I have answers.”
“Yes.” John whispered.
“Go on then. You should do it fast.”
“First, tell me what have I gotten into?” John asked slowly. Putting pressure on each word. He needed to make the man understand how much he was loathing being in on something he didn’t know about. “Who were those people? What is in that bag?”
The man blinked for a few moments. Then opened his mouth.
“Allow me to introduce myself first? So it's easier to understand.”
“Okay.” John replied, taking a deep breath.
“I am Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective at the New Scotland Yard.” The smile hanging from the man’s lips was a proud smile. And John took a few seconds to let the information sink in.
For all John knew, the man could be a serial killer who can kill without a weapon. He shouldn’t really care about the persona or how the man’s eyes looked different under the fluorescent light of the room. Or how he sounded better (or in a sense, worse) than on the phone.
“Sounds like a made up job.” John snorted.
If the man was there to kill him or anything, John was doing a poor job to not piss him off.
“Well the name is sort of… made up.” The man, Sherlock (odd name, fit perfectly with the odd persona) said thoughtfully.
“Huh?” His grip on the gun was less tight and his guard was slowly coming down, but it wasn't really the point. He could sense that the gun was unnecessary. He was in front of a crazy person. Not that kind of crazy who gets hostile and kills everyone they lay eyes on. It was the kind when people firmly believe lizard men lived underground or the earth was flat.
“I am the only one in the world. I invented the job.”
“What?” John blurted out. “I don’t understand. What is it that you actually do?”
Sherlock Holmes sighed as if he was in deep pain. His eyes were squeezed shut as if he was trying to not scream in frustration.
The man opened his eyes and took a deep breath.
“When the police are out of their depth, they come to me and I relieve them out of their misery.” He rolled his eyes. “Funny, little boring brains. They are at a loss without me most of the time. ”
John now understood, but he didn’t really.
“You can do better than Scotland Yard?”
“Yes.” The expressive brows were furrowed.
“You don’t believe me… You actually don’t believe me.”
Sherlock’s eyes went wide and it looked like he was pouting.
John was wrong. He wasn’t dealing with crazy. He was dealing with a twelve year boy who pouted.
“Well...” John nodded, trying to not offend him more. “I don’t know you and I have a gun pointed at you right now and also I am into some deep shit you haven’t explained to me yet.” He sighed. “I have very little reason to believe you.”
“Oh… That.” Sherlock blinked as if processing the information. “I wasn’t talking about believing that. I was talking about how you don’t believe the consulting part. The police consulting me.”
“Oh, well that too.” John nodded. And considered if he should just put the gun down. “The police don’t consult amateurs. I am well aware of that.”
The grey blue eyes shined brightly. And a smirk emerged on that odd face. It was attractive. Way too attractive. So attractive that John almost forgot for a second where he was and what he was in.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
For a moment John simply couldn’t breathe. He had no idea that a simple question ever had the ability to knock the literal air out of him.
“There is nothing in that bag to indicate my army life.”
“Just answer me.” He snapped.
“I am not finished.” Sherlock raised his hand.
“Psychosomatic limp on your leg. Discharged from the Army before you served full term. You were coming back from a relative’s. Someone who has a fairly good relationship with you but not enough to go and ask for money. Or ask to move in. That's why,” He indicated at the room. “this dump.”
“How can you possibly know that?” John bit his bottom lip.
“You want to know?” Sherlock tilted his head in an almost challenging way.
“Of course I do.”
“Okay then,” He leaned back on the chair “I sat beside you in the station before you took my bag and ran off into the sunset. I noticed you.The tan line on your arm and neck. Not from a tan bed. Not that you can afford it, no offense.”
“Your posture said army. The identify card in your bag said doctor. Army doctor, tanned. Back from service recently. Two and two always makes four.”
“And how did you know about the limp being psychosomatic?”
“The reason behind coming to that conclusion is in your hallway. I didn't dare bring it up while you pointed a gun at me.”
“What’s in the hallway?” John shifted his weight onto his other leg.
“Go on.” Sherlock smiled. “I am not running away anywhere. Just check your hallway.”
John hesitated for a moment. Thinking about all the outcomes and realizing he didn’t care really. So he walked towards the door, keeping an eye on Sherlock who wasn’t even looking at him anymore. Instead he was more interested looking around the room. Head moving sideways and muttering under his breath.
At the opposite wall, leaning on the dead plant, was John's walking stick.
That meant only one thing. John had been doing without it for over an hour now. His leg should hurt. His muscles would threaten to fall apart.
But they weren’t. He was standing there, holding a gun with his left hand, the hand which was supposed to have an intermittent tremor. And standing on two legs steady and firm, one of which was supposed to have a psychosomatic limp, making him question his existence and the worth of his life since he came back from the war.
Ella said he was afraid of the war. Was it possible that she misdiagnosed? Or that she wasn’t telling him the whole of it yet?
“You forgot about your limp.” Sherlock started to talk as soon as John closed the door. “Now, you could fake it but considering how that doesn't give you any extra benefit, it isn't that. It's psychosomatic. And about the relative, well your bag. The one on your floor right now. The model, again not something you can afford. But it's not brand new. Someone gave it to you. There is something sewn over one of the slings. xxx Clara Watson. Now who is Clara? Your girlfriend. No. Then it was a gift. To your relative. My guess your brother. They fell apart and now he is getting rid of her memories. You don't get along with him that's why this is your living arrangement. Either you liked his wife or he has an addiction. Could be gambling or alcohol. I am going with the alcohol. Just guessing this time.”
He stopped for a breath.
“You were right, the police don't consult amateurs.” Sherlock wasn’t smiling. John could see how he was actually holding his breath.
“That's… brilliant.” John chuckled. “That was absolutely brilliant.”
And the whole demeanor of the man changed. The expression on his face looked like John just broke it to a toddler that Santa Claus wasn't real.
John found him exceptionally fascinating. And he was getting more sure by the second that it wasn't really a good thought. Not even a sane one.
“What?” Sherlock murmured. “What did you say?”
“I just said that was brilliant… that thing you did-"
“Deduced. It was a deduction.” Sherlock said softly. Betraying the thought of nervousness in his demeanor.
“Your deduction. About me. It was brilliant. No one could say things like that. I wasn't trying to offend you.” John swallowed, thinking about if any phrase of that sentence was offending. He should really put the gun down. Maybe that wasn’t really needed.
“It’s not that.” John watched as Sherlock blinked rapidly. “That's not what people usually say or express when I serve the history of their life on a platter.”
“What do they normally say then?”
“Piss off.” Sherlock said with a shrug and a small smile.
And John was laughing. He was laughing with a man who was weird and out of place and whose eyes were shining like stars and something inside John was turning very soft and warm and he was getting more relaxed.
So relaxed that he almost forgot what he was into and why the man was there and why he had a gun pointed at him still (he was losing the will to hold it anymore and his insides were protesting).
“So, was I right about everything?”
“Harry and I don't get along. Harry and Clara got a divorce three months ago. Harry is now miserable and isn't listening to me. Just to alcohol. ”
“So I got everything right.” Sherlock’s expression was confused. “Then why did you say mostly?”
“Harry is short for Harriet.” John replied with a smile.
“Sister. Ugh!” Sherlock threw his hands in the air. “There is always something.”
John found that amusing. But that didn't stay for long because other pressing matters came to mind.
“Wait.” John lifted his finger. “You made me forget. Tell me now. What is this all about?”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes.
“Did you open the bag?”
“I did. Should I not have?”
“No, it's fine.” He assured. “Now you already grabbed it. No harm to check the contents. What did you see?”
“A tattered notebook whose contents were questionable. But I guess I am not questioning it anymore.” John lowered his gun. “My fingers are cramping and I would rather keep it at my side than pointing it at you. I am fast. And I will pull the gun out if anything suspicious happens. Are we clear on that?”
“That’s an illegal gun. And I just told you that I have connections with the police. Are you sure that even displaying that is a good idea?” Sherlock asked with a smirk.
“I will take my chances.” John shrugged. Backing up so he could sit on the bed, and left the gun by his side. “I’ve got nothing to lose anyway.”
Sherlock’s eyes softened at that. But John might have been imagining it entirely.
“What else?” Sherlock bent forward and clasped his hands together. “What else is in the bag?”
“A scarf. I think that's yours. And a flash drive. Only thing that can be of national importance.”
“Not bad, Dr Watson.” His lips curled upwards. John tried to look at the wall beside him. None of this was helping. He hadn’t had a long conversation with anyone except his therapist since he came back. The weekend at Harry’s was spent in uncomfortable silence.
So it wasn’t good. All of it. A starving man doesn’t survive if he eats everything at once. And John could feel himself losing self control. It was slow. But he was slipping. And it was entirely unacceptable.
“The flash drive you saw,” Sherlock started talking “contains something which should not be out like this. A lot of people are searching for it right now. Good people and bad people. If any of them...”
“Which one are you?” John interrupted.
“Pardon?” Sherlock raised his eyebrow.
“Which one of those people are you? Good one, bad one…?”
“Neither.” Sherlock replied after a pause. “I fall into neither of those categories. I fall in no category you can think of.” He said proudly.
John had stopped falling into a category too. Did that mean anything?
“Then what were you doing with it?”
“Just trying to solve a puzzle. Get the notebook.”
John hesitated for a few moments. If he got up to get the notebook it would mean he would have to bend and pick it up and many things could happen as he would divert his eyes from Sherlock for a moment.
But it was getting tiring. To be constantly paranoid. And again, he had nothing to lose.
“If you want. I can...” Sherlock was starting to rise from the chair.
“No, it’s fine.” John replied and walked to the backpack. Casually picking it up from the floor and walked back to the bed. His gun was still on the bed. Sherlock had not made any attempt to move. And if John could trust his senses, it felt like Sherlock was holding his breath the whole time it took John to walk to the bag and come back to his bed.
This man was not going to harm him.
“Okay. Now open page one thirty seven. What do you see?”
“Serial killings. Victims were random and found poisoned.” John read along. “Three murders. Killer left no clues.”
“There has been a fourth one. And the killer left a message. For me.”
“You are quite wanted in that circle, I presume.”
“I hope so. I work hard to maintain that.”
John looked up and noticed the grin on Sherlock’s face. He could not help but chuckle at the ridiculousness of the statement.
“What does that flashdrive have to do with it?”
“The message that was left at the last crime scene, was a code. And it offered information in exchange for something valuable. Something specific.”
“And that flash drive is that specific thing?” John held it up, eyeing it carefully in the artificial light.
“Exactly.” Sherlock nodded.
“So? What do I do?”
“You sit here and I sit here with you and we just try to stay off their radar and until we are absolutely sure that they did not chase after you, which is unlikely, I am afraid you are housebound. And with you, I am.”
“I am going to call the police then. I cannot afford stressing.”
“No. Why do you think I didn’t tell the police about the flashdrive? They have agents everywhere.” Sherlock’s brows were furrowed. “There is a chance that you were not followed, but if you call the police, you are giving away that small chance.”
John pursed his lips. “I don’t want to be in this.”
“I work with dangerous people, Dr Watson. I didn’t want to bring you into this. You did this to yourself. I am sorry for that.” Sherlock replied .
“So if they do find me… What happens? Am I going to die?” John looked at the door, as if the men were already there.
“I am here to make sure that you don’t.”
“I am itching to comment about this thing you call your room.”
“This is just… impossible to live in. You really should find something better.” Sherlock made a face as if he was sitting inside garbage.
“I cannot afford it. And don't make that face.” John warned. “It's not untidy.”
“Get a flatshare?” Sherlock said in a low voice, looking at the ceiling.
“Who would want me as a flatmate?” John chuckled, feeling relaxed. “This is fine. I am doing okay.”
“I see. You are lying though. But that’s okay.”
A loud noise outside startled them both. And John’s hand was instantly on the gun.
“Calm down.” Sherlock said . “I think it’s nothing.”
“You can’t be sure of that.”
“I am.” Sherlock replied in a confident voice. “But still. Do check.”
John looked at his hand still holding the gun. He sure wanted to take it to the window and shoot if anything suspicious was outside.
But Sherlock with the most confident voice ever, just told him there wasn’t. So he decided against it.
John slowly opened the blinds to look outside. And after a few seconds, the sound happened again. Just a cat jumping over a trash bin over and over...
And there was a pressure on his back suddenly. He turned fast, and bumped into the chest of Sherlock.
He wasn’t wrong, he had to look up to look at his eyes. Sherlock was really taller than him.
John’s throat was dry. But it was hard to determine the exact cause of it. He wanted to believe that it was because of the possibility of dangerous people trying to find him and something he shouldn't be in possession of.
Or that the gun which was supposed to be his safety, was left in his bed while the man stood in front of him.
He wanted one of those to be the reason.
But in reality his throat was dry because he was trapped inside a room with a very gorgeous and remarkable and sharp man and that man was looking down at his lips. And his eyes. And his lips again.
The man was holding John’s forearm tenderly. It was clearly because John bumped into him. But maybe that was not all of it.
John didn’t even know if he walked closer or the breath over his face was imaginary. But what he certainly knew was that the pressure on his hand was gone, the warmth around him disappeared too. Sherlock Holmes was walking backwards until he was just out of John’s reach.
He would never admit that he was going for a kiss.
“No. I can’t do this to you.” Sherlock murmured and John could swear his eyes were glassy.
“I am sorry. That was inappropriate. I thought...” John tried to breathe slowly. “I assumed something that I shouldn’t have.”
“You have absolutely no fault in all of this.” Sherlock cleared his throat. “You assumed what you were exactly to assume. You reacted as you were supposed to.” Sherlock was standing with both of the heels of his palm over his eyes. Face scrunched.
“What are you talking about?” John swallowed nervously.
“I lied to you.”
“About why I am here.”
John regretted leaving the gun on the bed. He regretted that more than anything else at that moment. He regretted for falling for a trap. For all he knew, this wasn’t what he thought.
“There is no dangerous people chasing you. Yes, the flash drive does contain something to bring the nation down to its feet. But that doesn't matter anymore because it's safe. The men chasing it, in custody. I have a very influential brother who took care of things.” John watched as Sherlock’s nostrils flared. “The puzzle. I didn't want to solve it anymore.” His words were a whisper.
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I opened your bag, and saw you in it.” Sherlock smiled a broken smile. “I found a puzzle to solve.”
John should have stopped feeling anything for him about five minutes ago but he didn’t. And nothing was helping.
“That doesn't clarify anything.”
“I saw you in it. And deduced. You know I can deduce. I deduced you are lonely and you are coming to an empty room and you… you shouldn't be alone.”
John stood there and couldn’t find any words to reply.
“So when I saw how a little thrill of danger makes you forget everything, your psychosomatic limp, your surroundings. I wanted to give you an evening free of that.” Sherlock’s hands were raised in front of him. An act of assurance. John was hating it.
“So you just followed me? And made up a story. And then started to flirt with me.”
“That’s not what it was. Don’t be an idiot.” Sherlock hissed.
“That’s what it looked like. That’s what it is still looking like.” John hoped he was showing enough anger, as much as he was feeling inside.“What were you trying to achieve?”
“I don't know. I didn't think about it wholly.” Sherlock wasn’t meeting his eyes anymore.
“I don’t have any money. Sexual favours?”
“Oh don't lie. You just described yourself as none other than a creepy ass stalker.”
“I am not. I don't plan. I just work on instinct. I am not a stalker.”
“So what does your instinct tell you now?” John asked slowly.
“That you are angry.”
“That I am unwelcome.”
“Good deduction, Mr Holmes. No wonder Scotland Yard needs you.” John chuckled.
“I just...” Sherlock was pleading. John didn’t want to look at his face anymore.
“I don't need you. I don't need anyone's pity. I don't need anyone’s free time. I don't prefer to be anyone’s free time.” John shook his head. “So go. Just walk out of that door before I lose my mind.”
And John watched. How with hung shoulders and broken face, the man walked out of the door.
Maybe he was there to help. Maybe he wasn’t. John was too tired to assess that. And felt too betrayed.
“We will contact you, Dr Watson.”
The woman was too polite to give away the news that John wouldn't get the job. John walked out slowly, folders clutched to his side.
Sherlock Holmes might not have been a creepy stalker, or a well wisher. But what he did to John was unforgivable. Because John needed the walking stick again. And the difference is very apparent when you get used to not using it. Albeit for just an hour and so. Because John knew now how it felt to walk without help, or to not have an intermittent tremor.
And it’s hard to go back to being starved again. And the only person responsible for that was Sherlock Holmes. If yesterday didn’t happen, John would never feel how it felt like to be alive again.
No one texted John. No one called him.
So it was very easy to miss the buzz and the soft chirping sound that followed. But because the phone was out and in front of is eyes while he sat dumbly in front of the laptop, he didn’t miss the text.
I need help. 221b Baker Street. SH
Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes was texting him. John wanted to feel surprised at the boldness and daringness. But it wasn’t really possible. He wasn’t surprised.
Come at once if convenient. SH
If inconvenient, come anyway. Don't be an idiot. SH
Sherlock Holmes was wrong. Because John Watson was an idiot. Or why would he be sitting in the back of a taxi and thinking about Sherlock Holmes and telling the cabbie to rush?
The cab stopped in front of a door with 221b on a brass plate written on it.
“I am looking for Sherlock Holmes.” He told the woman who answered the door.
“I am the landlady, Mrs Hudson.” The woman smiled. “You must be Dr Watson. Sherlock told me you would come, come on in. He is upstairs.” She stepped aside.
John counted the steps. Seventeen. And then he was inside a room which looked less like a room and more like someone’s personal museum. A messy museum. And among all of that. The man from yesterday was lying down on a sofa. Straight as an arrow, fingers stipped under his chin.
He looked like a mistake John would happily make.
“Are those three nicotine patches?” John asked, pointing at the patches on the pale forearm. He was so thin.
“Yes, helps me think.” Sherlock replied, eyes still closed. “Hard to maintain a smoking habit in London.”
“What am I doing here?” John shifted his weight onto his other foot.
“Same question, Dr Watson. What are you doing here?” The eyes were open now, gazing at John.
“You texted me.” As if that was enough reason.
“Didn’t fully expect you to appear here.” Sherlock sat up, and before John could blink his eyes, he was standing too close, almost flush to John’s chest. Looking down with piercing eyes. John felt like he was reading John’s whole life story.
He should just step back, that would be more civil. More appropriate. He had just kicked this exact man out of his flat the previous day.
He should be angry. Over Sherlock, over himself.
But he wasn’t because to his own horror, the feeling inside was of being grateful. Sherlock Holmes could not know that in any way.
“You have some very bad habits.” John murmured.
“People do say that.” Sherlock looked thoughtful.
“But you following people to their home tops all of that.”
“I don’t follow everyone. If you can believe me, then you should know yesterday was an exception in my life.”
“I don’t believe you entirely.”
“That means you do a little. That will work.” Sherlock was closer now and John could not decide what to do. Run or just stand and let everything happen, whatever that was.
But in the next instance, Sherlock was walking towards the door, taking that well known coat off of the hook.
“Where are we going?”
“I told you there has been another murder. Do keep up John.”
John thought about how he should just end the madness there. Just walk out of the flat and never come back. Delete the number from his phone and block it. Maybe get a restraining order. Sherlock wasn't even pressing him to do something. John wasn’t really sure why he was doing it.
“Come on, John. The game is afoot!” Sherlock Holmes was running out of the door, and John had no other option but to follow him.
Throughout the cab ride John fidgeted in his seat, words trying to come out. Too many questions.
Sherlock glared once, gazing for a few seconds, then his eyes were turned back to the road.
The cab stopped at an unknown part of town. In front of a police squad, ambulance and a glaring siren.
“Is this a crime scene?” John whispered.
“You bet it is.” Sherlock brushed past him, taking long strides towards the yellow tape. John followed.
A curly haired woman stopped them in their tracks. Her face dismissive.
“Who is this?”
“Good evening, Sergeant Donovan. This is my colleague, Dr John Watson.” Sherlock replied with a nonchalant voice.
“A colleague? How did you get a colleague?” Her head span towards John. “Did he follow you home?”
And for a few seconds John had no idea what to say or do. Maybe telling the truth wasn’t a good idea.
“Why would he do that?” He was asking before he even thought about the question.
“Because he is creepy. Why else? Who are you really?’’ Her face was still dismissive and now bordering on confused.
“I told you that.” Sherlock’s voice was cold “He is my colleague and is here to assist me. I talked with Lestrade, now let me go in.” The last words were delivered with a scary display of bared teeth.
John hid a smile. Because Sherlock looked like a cat claiming his territory.
Sergeant Donovan still looked shocked. Like she witnessed a murder in front of her. But she stepped aside.
And John watched how Sherlock was universally hated at the crime scene (one exception was the kind faced DI) and before John knew, he was watching Sherlock almost jump in joy and running outside the building because apparently he solved the case.
And when John came out, he was nowhere in sight.
“He left.” A female voice said from behind. It was the Sergeant from before, Donovan.
“I see.” John looked away.
“Really. I don’t know what this is about you and him, God help me I saw him looking at you more than necessary.” She made a disgusted face. “But for your own sanity, keep away from Sherlock Holmes.”
John had that option. And already botched that entirely. So he walked to the main road, hailed a cab and gave the cab an address where he was sure to bump into Sherlock Holmes, although not sure when. Because he absolutely no idea where the man went.
John had watched a lot of idiotic things in his life. But what he never saw was someone apparently painfully smart, being painfully daft.
So he did what he could do best. Steadied his hand, fixated on his target and pulled the trigger.
His intermittent tremor felt like a long forgotten nightmare by now.
He watched as the DI walked to Sherlock, now sitting at the back of an ambulance, looking ridiculously good even when wrapped around by a bright orange blanket.
Then he watched as Sherlock walked closer. smiling. And his heart did that thing that it did when he boarded the plane to go to Afghanistan. He knew what that feeling was. It indicated a new beginning.
Was he getting to experience a new beginning at thirty five years of age, in front of mad man? A mad and extraordinary man?
“Reckless, Dr Watson.” The man was smiling a knowing smile.
Still John tried.
“Oh yes. I heard. Dreadful business. The cabbie. The pills.” John shook his head trying to churn out a shocked expression. “Dreadful.”
“Really? You are trying to fool me ?” Sherlock Holmes looked funny when he was trying to be serious while having an orange blanket over his shoulders. John wanted to remove it. Maybe not just that.
“No. I am trying to fool myself.” John replied, looking straight into the pale eyes.
“Taken care of.” John looked past Sherlock. The lights of the police car were too blinding.
“But we need to get rid of that powder burn from your finger as soon as possible.” Sherlock was holding his hand and examining it and John was feeling things that he forgot were inside him. “I guess nothing else is here to connect you to the shooting. We are done after that.” John felt disappointed when Sherlock let go of his hand.
Sherlock’s voice had taken an interesting turn at that point. John didn’t bother to try to understand that. He was agreeing. He was ready to agree to anything. Sergeant Donovan was an idiot. She didn’t know Sherlock. She certainly didn’t know him.
“You are sure?” It took a lot of courage to say that. But John was happy that he did.
Sherlock didn’t reply at that. Just turned around and started walking. And without a fault, John was following.
And then John was in a cab, and then in front of a flat he was in a few hours ago. And John was watching Sherlock Holmes turn the key on the door.
And after that John was being pinned down to the wall behind him, just under the staircase. And a pair of cold lips was kissing him. Wrong, trying to devour him. And John found no reason to complain.
“No one has ever done that for me.” Sherlock was panting and pressing their foreheads together.
“Done what? Follow you around despite the fact you stalked them?” John tried to steady his breath. “And didn’t stop you when you tried to practically eat them in the name of kissing?”
“Killed for me. To save me. Me. No one thinks about me. Even I don’t.” Sherlock sounded lost.
“I am not surprised.” John giggled. And watched as Sherlock’s eyes roamed around his face.
“And I thought I had figured you out entirely.”
“How can you figure me out entirely when I don’t get myself?” John smiled at the idiot in front of him.
“I was wrong. But happy to be that.” Sherlock leaned in to kiss him again. Pinning John’s upper arms to the wall.
“Why are you still here?” Sherlock asked between kisses, panting like had he ran a hundred miles.
“Because you have me pinned to a wall and are kissing me?” John tried to sound as innocent as possible.
“No… you had plenty of chances to walk out of this bizzare thing between us. You still do. You can throw me away from you if you really want. Why aren’t you?” Sherlock had no right to be so beautiful when his eyes were squinted.
“Because I read your website.” John rubbed his thumb over the back of Sherlock’s neck. “You are not the only one here who can deduce.”
“And what did you see?” Sherlock blinked like a kid trying to understand algebra.
“It has been a long time, Sherlock.” John closed his eyes. “It has been too long that I don’t even remember how relationships work. Maybe my judgement is impaired. But…”
John opened his eyes to see a face full of far more questions than John would like to answer right then.
“A man who cares too much about two hundred different types of tobacco ash to just entertain himself, is not a stalker. He doesn’t have time to stalk.” He said slowly.
“Two hundred and forty three.” Sherlock’s nostrils flared.
“You are going to argue about that here, like this.” John tilted his head.
“No. I am not.” Sherlock replied. “So what am I?”
“Just curious.” John shrugged.
“I guess that makes us compatible.” Sherlock said slowly.
“So what was all this?” John whispered, brushing his fingers along the sharp jaw.
“Just passing the time. And proving a point.” Sherlock replied, slowly licking John’s lower lip.
“That I might be your cure.”
“In what way?” John knew the answer. But wished that Sherlock would just confirm what he knew already.
“Where is your walking stick, John?” Sherlock smiled.
“Upstairs.” John murmured. “Didn’t need it anymore.”
Sherlock smirked in a way which translated to nothing but a silent ‘I told you so.’
“Sherlock. Oh my.” Mrs Hudson, the landlady yelped. It must have been quite a shock to come out of the kitchen and bump into something which was bordering on publicly inappropriate.
“Oh God, I am so sorry.” John tried to get out from under Sherlock.
“It’s fine, Dr Watson. You are young. When I was married, my husband and I could hardly keep our hands to ourselves. This old lady is used to that.” She looked like a proud mother approving of the guy her son brought home.
“Mrs Hudson.” Sherlock said, not moving his eyes from John’s. “I think John would love to share the flat with me.”
“Oh goodness. You might be able to actually tidy the place. He makes it unbearable.” Mrs Hudson was grinning. “This is such a good news! I am going to make tea right now. Would you like some muffins, dear?”
“Not now, Mrs Hudson.” John felt Sherlock’s hand gripping his tightly. And then he was being dragged upstairs.
“I didn’t agree to living with you.”
“I play the violin when I am thinking. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end.” Sherlock wasn’t really paying any attention to John’s words.
“How are you so sure that I am moving in?” John grunted, feeling Sherlock’s hand on his pelvis, pushing him towards the closed door again.
“I am moody. I don’t like most people.”
“We are on the same page on that.” John laughed.
“The only thing predictable about me is that I am very unpredictable.” Sherlock’s face was serious.
“Are you trying to invite me or scare me off?” John looked up. “You are doing the latter to be honest.”
“I am just letting you know everything. If we live together, we should know about the worst in each other.” John was being kissed again. So hard that he was sure that if Sherlock tried a bit more, he could taste John’s brain.
“I don’t have a list of things about me.”
“You don’t have to put any effort into that.” Sherlock was panting, his breath hot over John ears.
“Okay Mr Know-It-All.”
“If you keep on name calling me John I will…” Sherlock trailed off.
“You will do what?” John challenged. “ You are not going to do anything.”
“Don't provoke me.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes.
“Do you follow a lot of people home?” John rubbed his thumb where his hand rested inside Sherlock’s overcoat. Just over the soft fabric of his shirt.
“No.” Sherlock groaned. “Only the ones with a psychosomatic limp, bullet wounds and trust issues.”
John took a deep breath, then twisted themso Sherlock was the one being pinned now. He still had to look up.
“That's not a long list, is it?”
“That's not even a list.” Sherlock chuckled and pulled John up to a kiss.
John felt his eyes burning. Those were happy tears. He was sure.
“Tell me this is a bad decision.” John asked, taking a sip of Mrs Hudson’s excellent tea.
“No. I am selfish. I intend to keep you.” Sherlock replied, from the kitchen (John hoped it was a kitchen because it vaguely looked like one. Except the pungent smell coming from a flask Sherlock was shaking intently). “I will tell you that it is an extremely good decision.”
“So what are we in?” John licked his lips. “This is not a normal friendship or anything is it?”
“I think normal people call it the beginning of a relationship.” Sherlock shrugged.
“Normal people’s normal relationships do not include stalkery.”
“You are only embarrassing yourself, John. If I did not stalk you, neither of us would benefit.” Sherlock put the flask down and walked in front of John. His hands on his hips, looking mildly annoyed.
“You just admitted to stalking me.” John bit his lips, trying to hold in a burst laughter.
Sherlock’s eyes went wide. “I did not.”
“As you say.” John did not hide the smile nor his laughter this time.
Sherlock stood there. John felt those two scrutinizing eyes all over him, and felt oddly comfortable.
“Sherlock.” He cleared his throat.
“I am too full of happy hormones. Because I haven’t been happy for a long time. So I want to say three words.”
“God no. You’ve known me for two days. I am not really lovable.” Sherlock made a disgusted face.
“It’s not what you think it is.”
“And they are?”
“You’re an idiot.”
John had no idea how Sherlock sounded like when he giggled. He had two ways to know that, of course. There are only a few things to know about people you’ve known for less than two days.
But it was amusing. And John was giggling as well, and looking up at Sherlock, hoping his eyes said the things which were impossible to say out loud.
“Thank you for saving my life.” John whispered.
“Thank you for saving mine.” Sherlock replied with a shrug. As if it wasn’t a big deal. As if John hadn’t found a reason to live again.
“Hope you are single, Sherlock.”
“I’m not now.” Sherlock tilted his head towards John.
“Good. Because I don’t do one night stands anymore.” John felt his cheeks warming up.
“I never do them.” Sherlock sounded distant.
“I don’t plan to end up in my stalkers’ bed.” John hid a smile behind the teacup.
“For the last time John...” Sherlock sounded defeated. “I am not a stalker.” Then his face lit up with a smile “On the other hand, bed sounds good.”
“I will call you that once in while.” John smiled. “There. I told you a thing about me.”
“Does that mean?” Sherlock walked closer and sat on the carpet like a toddler. Just below John.
“Yes. I am moving in.” John looked down at the childish face “But I will need the other bedroom.”
“Whatever you need.” Sherlock replied and put his chin on John’s knee, looking at him with wide eyes. John could see a faint blush rising on the lovely cheeks. “I can’t believe how mad for you I am right now. And I can’t deduce the whole reason behind it.” Sherlock said softly. “And that’s frustrating.”
“You will figure it out.” John smiled at the man looking up at him. “Just like I did.”
A repository wasn’t always essential and it always didn’t come when someone wanted. And even if it came, it wasn’t always in the desired form. But John wasn’t fussy. Just an eccentric man who was mad for him was more than enough.
"The sales lady said that it was the best quality imaginable." Sherlock's lips curled upwards. "The backpack I mean. I can't agree more."
"The best out there." John broke into laughter and Sherlock joined, and in a few seconds John was clutching his stomach and gasping for breath from the laughter.
"You are mad." John said breathlessly.
"And you are madder than me John." Sherlock said, equally breathlessly, rubbing his eyes to wipe the tear.
John had to agree on that.