Sherlock could hear the other man’s heartbeat long before he even entered the room. That smell, that exquisite scent he knew so well; he had to close his eyes and compose himself before the door opened. He glanced up, and then back down at the microscope on the table.
Just that one look was almost too much. His hand tightened on the table-top. He focused on Mike Stamford instead.
“Mike, can I borrow your phone? Mine has no signal down here.”
Predictably, Mike found an excuse. Mike always had an excuse. Usually it still worked in Sherlock’s favour. This time was no exception.
“Here. You can use mine.”
That voice. So different, yet so familiar.
John Watson. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for you.
Their fingers touched as he took the phone, and the contact felt so right. He wanted more.
And of course, he couldn’t resist showing off. It wasn’t fair, he knew that, but he wanted to impress this man, this stranger who was not a stranger at all. But Sherlock is not a nice person, and he wanted John to see that, and Molly was the obvious target.
Poor girl. At another time in his life, she might have been one of his conquests, another bloody body left in his wake. But now there was John Watson. Again. And John Watson was the only thing that mattered. He had a John Watson in his life again. All was right in the world.
The wink as he left the room probably wasn’t necessary. He was testing John. And he was not disappointed.
From the moment they walked in to 221B together, Sherlock knew he’d chosen well. As John hobbled around the room on that ridiculous cane, he had a sudden flashback to another time, another Baker Street, another London. Another Watson.
The street was busy. People dodged horses pulling carts to get from one side to the other. Predictably, it was raining. Horses’ hooves stirred up mud on the cobbles, nobody stopped to chatter on the street corner, and nobody paid any attention to the two men entering one of the houses. 221B Baker Street looked no different from the buildings either side of it, with its ornate railings, tall and narrow, its red bricks looking grey in the rain. But neither man who stepped past the threshold of that particular house were ordinary.
Holmes took in everything with a glance, and then continued watching Watson. Watson took his time going over the rooms, perfectly aware of the set of eyes on him. Holmes watched everything, from the way his jacket swirled as he moved, to the very deliberate placing of his feet. Here was a man who trusted no-one and was suspicious of everyone. Holmes narrowed his eyes. There was something about this man that didn’t quite fit.
“Well, Watson?” he said, when the silence became too heavy.
The other man turned to him at last. “I think this will do very nicely.” There was a hint of amusement in his voice, and his eyes sparkled.
Over the next few months, Holmes would learn exactly what put that sparkle in his companion’s eyes. He would see it as they raced down yet another dark alley in pursuit of some criminal. Noticed it in the way he would come alive when faced with yet another gun to the head. In the way he grinned at Holmes when they returned to Baker Street. In the way the other man brushed his hand as they passed. Even in the fire of his fury as he cornered Holmes yet again after being treated like a doormat.
Sherlock could see the same spark in John’s eyes as another gunshot rang out behind them. The cane forgotten, the pair rounded another corner, breathing hard but grinning into the night.
“Do you go out of your way to piss off the wrong type of people?” John managed to gasp out.
The sides of Sherlock’s mouth turned up in a sly smirk. “They pissed me off first. This guy’s not even intelligent enough to cover his own tracks. Too easy, John.”
It was one of their earlier, easier cases, involving a drug-lord who’d had a client killed after he’d refused to pay up. The dynamic between them was easy, familiar and comforting. Sherlock hadn’t felt this calm since 1891. His cravings were lessened, easier to handle. He didn’t need the drugs as much.
Mycroft had noticed.
John Watson was not a stranger to him either. He’d been there at the tail end of the 1800s; he knew just how much of an impact the Watson family had on his little brother.
He was immensely grateful. The years between the first John Watson’s disappearance and the second’s introduction into Sherlock’s life hadn’t been easy. But although Sherlock’s wellbeing was of the utmost concern to him, he could see the bigger picture. He didn’t think London could cope with the fallout if Sherlock lost John a second time.
“If you hurt him, I will find you.”
John shivered. The voice, although mild and well-mannered, held a steel edge that left no room for doubt.
“I have no intentions of hurting Sherlock. I assure you. He may be difficult – “at this he smiled wryly, “- but he is one of the best men I have ever known.”
Mycroft didn’t smile. He leant on his umbrella, knowing full well he didn’t need muscles or raised voices to intimidate. But he was pleased. John could handle his brother, and Sherlock needed him. For as long as the Holmes’ brothers’ secret was kept from John, the partnership was beneficial to all concerned.
Holmes found Watson sitting at the desk in the corner of 221B’s drawing room. It was dusk, moonlight filtered through the window next to him, silhouetting the man as he sat, ink pen in hand. Holmes couldn’t see his face, but he knew well the look of concentration that fell so well onto Watson’s usually soft features.
He didn’t look up as Holmes entered.
“What are you going to call this one?” The teasing edge to his tone didn’t go unnoticed by Watson.
When he finally did look up, he had to restrain himself from jumping. Holmes was stood right next to him. Close. Too close. His gaze, so reminiscent of the hawks he used to see in Afghanistan, was fixed on his own green eyes, darkened with a world-weary tiredness that comes from living with the world’s only consulting detective.
“The Adventure of the London Magpie?”
Holmes scoffed. “Hardly a magpie. More like a pigeon. Dull. Ordinary. Boring.”
Watson’s eyes followed his friend as Holmes folded his long form into an armchair in front of the fire. It wasn’t particularly cold, but Mrs Hudson liked to keep the rooms looking homely for them.
“I’m bored, Watson.” His eyes closed, his hand reaching almost subconsciously for the box he kept his syringe and seven-percent solution of cocaine in.
Watson smiled at the back of Holmes’ head, shaking his head slightly the way one would with an unruly child. He didn’t like his companion’s drug habits, but since he had no other choice, he indulged him. He did not want to turn Holmes into someone like himself. Not if he had any choice.
Sherlock was please to discover that the Hudson family still owned 221 Baker Street. This Mrs Hudson was certainly a lot more accommodating about his various experiments and eccentric nature, but then again, so was the twenty-first century in general.
But it wasn’t enough. Even the invention of the electron-microscope and the ever-evolving forensic methods, he still got bored. After living more than a century on this earth, he had already done everything.
John Watson helped. He really did. But he had no knowledge of the secrets the world possessed. The hidden world of darkness and intrigue that Sherlock himself was a part of. There was a resemblance to his ancestor, in his eagerness to learn, the way he filled the hole in Sherlock’s mind, even if his body remained a void, and yet they were so different.
Part of him wanted to keep John as far away from his world as possible, keep him innocent, let him grow old and have a family without complications. Another, smaller but very insistent, part of him wanted to tear John down and build him back again, to bite and claim and mark, as Watson had done way back when.
Sherlock stared at John as he spoke to a uniformed officer, next to the Police tape barring civilians from entering the building site. It had been a rough few days – a murder-suicide gone wrong, another criminal painting targets on their backs, and now another corpse had shown up, same MO as a cold case from back in 2001. Sherlock was running low on blood bags. As they were waved under the tape, the undeniably delectable scent of fresh blood hit Sherlock’s nostrils like a wave of fire. Usually, he was able to keep his hunger under control at crime scenes. His nature, and the urgent need for control, was part of the reason he had kept doing this kind of work after he was turned. But today, he was seeing red. He’d been unable to shake first John, then Lestrade off his back, both of them concerned with his safety, which resulted in only a few stolen mouthfuls, not enough to keep the hunger at bay.
He could feel his eyes crinkle, his fangs wanting so painfully to be free. Hurrying in front of John, he took a moment to compose himself, focusing on John’s scent. It worked, as it usually did, and by the time they reached the body, he felt better.
John went on oblivious, crouching down by the body, careful not touch. Sherlock appreciated John’s acknowledgement of the need for care, a need the police didn’t always seem to recognise. Many a case had been ruined by the boots and clumsy hands of the police, wrecking vital evidence in an attempt to close the case as quickly as possible.
As it turned out, the case was not nearly as complex as they had thought.
“So it really was just a copycat?” Lestrade looked perplexed, his usual expression when trying to decipher Sherlock’s quick deductions.
John nodded. “The 2001 cases were never solved, but they got plenty of press coverage. The Sussex Vampire, the media named the culprit, if I recall correctly. This Peter Johnson must have heard about it, and, through some insane reasoning, come to the conclusion that it was the perfect way to get away with murdering his husband’s ex’s son.”
Sherlock said nothing, all done with his deductions. He was impressed at how quickly John had picked up on his methods. There was one tiny detail neither the police nor John knew, and Sherlock sure as hell wasn’t going to tell them.
He recalled the first time he had met Katherine Pierce.