Sam is alone in the living room when John and Fiona come down from his room.
“Where’s Sherlock?” John asks.
Sam nods towards the kitchen. “Think he’s checking on his things.”
Fiona scowls and stalks into the kitchen.
Sam grins. “Guess she’s tired of people implying she’s messed everything up.”
John smiles back. “Guess so.” He sits down in his armchair and picks up his laptop. “How are things going?”
“Good, except for when Detective Holmes insisted on hovering around me to check on my progress,” she replies.
John fights a grin. “Is that what he was doing?”
“That, and speculating on what you and Fi were doing upstairs, not that he admitted that part,” she says, then raises her eyebrows at him. “What were you doing?” she sounds mostly curious, though there’s a hint of something not quite jealous in her voice.
“She just wanted to see the gun,” he says. “And ask me a couple of questions about the army.”
“Oh,” Sam says. “Wait, hang on. So you must have been an army doctor, then.”
“Yeah,” he agrees.
“Do you have your own practice now?” she asks.
“No, just locum work,” he replies, then grins a bit. “Wouldn’t really have time for anything else with the cases.”
She considers that. “So now you and your partner solve crimes that are unsolvable, go on stakeouts and chases and take down killers while you still do doctoring on the side?”
He chuckles slightly. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“Hmm,” she says, then adds wistfully, “Can I just be you when I grow up?”
John is startled. He’d known some younger students, soldiers, who looked up to him, back in medical school and the army, but the idea of someone wanting to be him, especially now, is just – well, he doesn’t know what it is, because it hasn’t actually occurred to him before now. “Why?”
“Why would I want to be a good-looking doctor who has a brilliant, handsome partner and goes on mad adventures with him, saving people and stopping bad guys?” she asks. “Yeah, that’s a mystery.”
He doesn’t really know what to say to that. He finally settles for, “Sherlock’s not my partner.”
She frowns at him. “Isn’t that what you call two detectives who work together?”
Oh. John winces internally. He might have known his automatic denial would one day just make things worse. “I thought you meant – never mind.”
Sam grins. “Oh. Pretty quick to deny it, aren’t you? Do you always do that?”
“It actually happens a lot,” John admits.
She says something under her breath that John doesn’t quite catch.
“Sorry?” he says.
“Never mind,” Sam says. “If I actually find a match, should I be looking out for them specifically tonight in addition to just anyone I recognize?”
“Probably,” John replies, then adds, “I don’t suppose I can convince you not to go tonight?”
Sam looks at him. “Were you able to convince Fi not to go?”
“I didn’t even try, actually,” John says. He’d considered it, but it seemed like a waste of effort.
She smiles slightly, then says, “I’m not about to let her be out there alone. If she’s going, I’m going.”
John sighs. He’d thought as much, but he figured he should try with at least one of them.
Fiona emerges from the kitchen then, looking pleased with herself. Then she sees Sam, and the smugness fades to uncertainty. She stands there for a moment, then her chin lifts determinedly and she moves to sit next to Sam.
Sherlock comes out a few moments later, not quite scowling, and John hides a grimace, wondering what they could have been talking about that left Fiona smug (at least briefly) and Sherlock discontent. Sherlock doesn’t say anything, just sits down in his chair and focuses in on his laptop.
John takes that as a cue to go back to working. They have a handful of names by the time they’re finished, most on the football team, but a couple on the rugby team (all of them are men Sam knows, but none that she knows well, and Fiona can’t say anything about their drug habits).
Sherlock is less pleased with the outcome than John had expected.
John pulls him aside to ask why while they’re grabbing a quick bite to eat before getting ready to head to the stakeout, and Sherlock shakes his head.
“University students are infuriating, John,” he replies. “They come from everywhere, they’re equally likely to have purchased shoes in their hometowns as in London, and obtaining records for all of their hometowns would prove to be at best exceedingly difficult, at worst impossible. Perhaps –” He hesitates, then shakes his head again. “Useless to speculate at the moment. After tonight I’ll know better which direction to pursue.”
“You think we’ll see him tonight, then?” John asks.
“No,” Sherlock says. “But we’ll have more information. At the very least, my contacts should be able to provide definite answers on Andrews and Green.”
Sherlock doesn’t say anything more on the subject, and it isn’t long before they’re taking a cab across town. Sherlock leads them down a series of poorly lit, seedy-looking alleyways to an abandoned warehouse.
“This is what we’re staking out?” John asks.
“Yes,” Sherlock replies. “There’s a reason I told you not to wear your jumper tonight.” He opens the door to the sound of music, and the four of them walk in.
There’s a small crowd of people in the warehouse, some dancing, some gathered in small groups talking or – doing other things.
John and Sam exchange a look, and both decide not to ask how Sherlock or Fiona know about this place. John at least can pretend Sherlock had been investigating for a case, but there’s really only one reason for why Fiona would have been here enough to see three of the victims.
They set up in an empty corner that gives them a clear view of the door, and John tries really hard not to feel out of place. At least his black jacket isn’t too different from the things some people are wearing, especially the ones who come in, remain only for a short time to talk to someone, and then leave.
“Sam,” Sherlock says after awhile. “Come with me. We need to examine the people who’ve already been here. John, Fiona, watch the door. We’ll return shortly.”
Sam follows after Sherlock, leaving John alone with Fiona.
They watch in silence for a few moments, then Fiona says abruptly, “I’m not here that much.”
John blinks at her. “What?”
“I don’t spend all my time here, if that’s what you were thinking,” she says.
“Um,” he says intelligently. “I wasn’t.”
“Oh. Good.” She nods, looks like she’s going to ask something, then seems to change her mind and falls silent.
When Sherlock and Sam come back, there’s a cigarette between Sherlock’s lips.
John raises his eyebrows. “I thought you quit.”
“I did,” Sherlock replies. “Except for when the occasion calls for it.” He leans casually against the wall, taking a drag.
John rolls his eyes, and figures at least if he’s trying to blend in, it’s only a cigarette. “This better be only a temporary relapse.”
“I don’t know,” Sam comments. “I’m kind of enjoying the view.”
Sherlock smirks, and shifts so he’s just a bit closer to her. Fiona’s eyes narrow at him, and she steps even closer to Sam.
Huh. John looks at Sherlock, raising his eyebrows again, but Sherlock just shrugs.
“Flattering,” Sherlock comments. “But your view is better served on the door.”
They turn their attention towards the front of the warehouse, but though John’s very focused on the people coming in, he’s not exactly looking for the people he’s supposed to be. John had looked at the photographs, memorized them as best as he could, but they aren’t at the front of his mind right now. It’s not exactly a conscious decision, but he finds himself scanning people more for a sign of a threat than for any resemblance to the pictures he’d looked at yesterday. He’d feel more guilty about not contributing more to the reason they’re out there, but they’ve got two extra pairs of eyes to make up for it, and really, it’s Sherlock’s fault John’s got more reason to be concerned about danger. (He suspects Sherlock knows where most of his attention is, anyway, considering he’d all but told John to watch out for them all.)
A few hours into their watch, Sherlock tosses down his cigarette and pushes away from the wall.
“Continue watching, I’m stepping out. Be back momentarily,” he says.
John reaches out without even thinking about it, catching Sherlock’s wrist and stopping his movement.
“I said no acts of idiocy tonight, remember?” he says.
Sherlock scowls. “I’m meeting one of my contacts, John, that’s hardly an act of idiocy.”
“Alone?” John asks.
“Yes, alone, just as nearly every other time I’ve meet with one here, for this case and numerous others,” Sherlock replies. “Do stop being entirely so paranoid, John.”
John hesitates, then lets go of Sherlock’s wrist. He knows Sherlock does things like this by himself, but it’s one thing to know it’s happening and another to have to wait in a not-so-abandoned warehouse while Sherlock wanders through dark, seedy alleys alone.
“Ten minutes,” John says.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Paranoid, John,” he tells him, but adds, “Fifteen,” before leaving.
John shoves his hands into his pockets, leaning back against the wall. “He always gets himself into trouble when he goes off alone and leaves me behind,” John mutters, ignoring the fact that that’s not entirely true.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Sam says sympathetically.
“Doesn’t mean I don’t worry,” John replies.
Without Sherlock there, John feels even more out of place. Hanging out in an abandoned warehouse that’s currently a site for some kind of cross between a party and a business, lurking in a corner with two girls at least ten years younger than him; he might as well be holding a sign saying, ‘hi, I’m a creeper.’
Then again, perhaps that means he doesn’t look entirely out of place after all.
The door opens, and a couple of young men walk in. They look to be the right age, but when John looks over at Sam and Fiona, Sam shakes her head.
“Don’t recognize any of them,” she says.
“I do,” Fiona says. “They’re not students.”
John nods, and returns to keeping an eye on those who get within a certain distance of them, though he winds up glancing back at the door much more often than he had when Sherlock was there.
The next time it opens happens to be at a time when he isn’t looking, but he hears Sam gasp, which turns his attention back towards her.
“Recognize someone?” he asks, already moving his gaze to the door.
She doesn’t answer, and he realizes why when he sees who’s just walked into the warehouse.
It’s Martin Andrews.
John stares in absolute disbelief. It’s not possible, there’s no way a dead man could be – and then the man steps a bit further into the warehouse, into better lighting, and John relaxes a bit. He’s been staring at pictures of Martin Andrews on his living room wall for the past four days, and the resemblance is strong enough that he must be a close relative, but it’s not him.
He looks back over at Sam and Fiona. Sam looks like she’s in shock, but Fiona’s scowling, and must have realized what John has.
“That’s –” Sam starts.
“Not Martin Andrews,” Sherlock says from their right.
They all turn to look at him, and John resists the urge to roll his eyes. Sherlock’s timing is so perfect that John suspects he’s been there longer and was waiting for the opportune moment or something.
“Of course not,” Fiona says crossly, folding her arms over her chest in an almost defensive position.
John frowns, wondering what’s made her so irritable.
“Then who is he?” Sam asks.
“I’m assuming a relative?” John asks, looking at Sherlock. John’s figuring brother, but he doesn’t say that, as he doesn’t feel like hearing Sherlock scoff if it’s actually a cousin or something. (And, well, relative will likely get him the smile Sherlock gives him when he’s caught on, without taking away Sherlock’s chance to shine and making him pout.)
“Brother,” Sherlock says, giving John a quick smile. “Steven Andrews. A social worker, who looks just enough like his brother to be mistaken for him. Not in daylight, of course, but in this lighting, viewed by someone under the influence of-”
“Yes, we’d figured that out, thank you,” Fiona snaps. “Or at least I have, and if these two aren’t complete idiots they’ve done as well. There’s no need to waste our time explaining it just so everyone knows how clever you are.”
Sherlock laughs, cold and cutting, with a hint of insecurity that likely only John has noticed. “I’m wasting our time? I’m hardly the one that had us chasing a false connection between the victims, am I? Fortunately I had my reservations and pursued other avenues of investigation, though they weren’t given my full attention due to misleading information, sadly enough for Ashley Green.”
Fiona takes a step back as if he’d struck her. She glances at Sam briefly, looking vulnerable and almost desperate. Then her expression closes down completely, and she turns and strides away from them.
Sherlock sneers. “If she can’t-”
He’s cut off when Sam slaps him.
“Shut up,” she says, then takes off after Fiona.
Sherlock stares, wide-eyed, and looks at John.
“Yes, she hit you,” John tells him. “You’re lucky all she did was slap you. If someone had said something like that to you, I would have punched them. What the hell were you thinking?”
“It was the truth,” Sherlock replies stubbornly.
“It’s not and you know it,” John says. “What was it that made you do that? You only use that laugh when someone’s said something that hit too close to home and you want to draw attention to them and away from yourself.”
Sherlock looks at him sharply. “You know what laughs I use when?”
“Not all of them, but I’m getting there,” John says absently. “Don’t change the subject.”
Sherlock glances away, and says, quietly and reluctantly, “I – don’t do that just to make myself seem clever, not entirely. Or at least I don’t mean to. But I have been accused of it quite a few times before.”
And John bets he can guess who they were, too. Or some of them, at least, there’s likely more he doesn’t know about. He sighs. “I know, Sherlock. But that’s no excuse. And anyway, if Fiona made that mistake, couldn’t the killer have as well?”
“I’d thought of that. If I had been in Fiona’s place, it’s possible I would have reached the same conclusion,” Sherlock admits. “But Ashley Green has no connection to drugs. Which means-” he cuts off.
John makes a mental note to demand more on that later, but now isn’t the time. He grabs Sherlock’s hand and tugs him towards the door.
Sherlock frowns, though he falls into step with him. “Where are we going?”
“Should think it’d be obvious,” John says. “After the girls. And you are going to tell Fiona the last bit of what you’ve just told me. And apologize.”
Sherlock scowls, but doesn’t protest.
When they get outside, however, Fiona and Sam are nowhere in sight. John feels a slight stab of fear, and he looks at Sherlock.
Sherlock gently pulls his hand from John’s grasp (shit, had he really not let go while they’d been walking out?) and crouches down to examine the ground. “Text them.”
Right. Obviously. John pulls out his phone and sends, ‘Where are you?’ to them both.
Only Sam replies, that she hasn’t found Fiona yet and thinks she went the wrong way.
“They’re not together,” John says. “And Fiona isn’t replying.”
“They went different directions,” Sherlock says. “Fiona was moving quickly, she was likely out of sight before Sam left the building.” He stands and points to the left. “Fiona went that way.”
“Let’s go, then,” John says, texting Sam to head back to the warehouse, face away from it like she’s just leaving, and turn left.
He and Sherlock move quickly, following Fiona’s footprints in the mud. After only a few minutes, Sherlock slows.
“What?” John demands.
“There’ve been several other tracks alongside hers,” Sherlock says. “But now one of the footprints is over hers. She was followed.”
They exchange a glance, and then both start running, only for Sherlock to stop them again relatively quickly.
“Listen,” Sherlock says.
John does, and hears the sound of people talking. He can’t make out what they’re saying, but one of them is Fiona, and he can tell the rest are male.
“Surprise them,” John says.
Sherlock nods, and they move over to hug the brick wall of the building along the alley, creeping silently but quickly towards the end of it. John looks around the corner when they get there, assessing the situation before jumping into it. Fiona is standing a few yards away, surrounded by four young men and talking quickly. John recognizes them: the group that had entered the warehouse just before Andrews’ brother.
“Looks like we-” John starts, then cuts off.
One of the men punches Fiona in the face, hard enough that she staggers back and ends up on the ground. Another man raises a crowbar, clearly intent on hitting her with it. John’s out from behind the corner in an instant, pulling his gun from the inside pocket of his jacket and taking the safety off at the same time. He gets barely two steps before the man with the crowbar is rugby-tackled to the ground.
Sam sits on top of him, pinning him down long enough for her to lift his head and bring it down hard against the ground. Fiona lashes out, kicking up and forward, driving the ball of her foot right into the groin of the man who’d punched her. He drops to the ground, but another man kicks Fiona in the side, and the last pulls Sam off of crowbar-man (though not before she’s bashed his head into the mud again).
By this time, John’s less than a yard from them. “Oi!” he yells, drawing their attention to him, and to the gun he’s got pointed at them.
“I suggest you leave,” Sherlock says from beside him. “Quickly.”
The two uninjured men pull the one Sam had tackled up and help him away, while the one Fiona kicked manages to get to his feet and hobble off.
“I don’t like letting them leave,” John says, keeping his gun trained on them.
“I’ve already texted Lestrade their pictures,” Sherlock replies. “They’ll be arrested before long.”
John waits until the men have left his sight before turning to smile at Sherlock. “See?” he says quietly. “Not a jerk at all.”
“It’s my job,” Sherlock says, but there’s a bit of colour on his cheeks.
John shakes his head and turns back towards the girls to check if they’re all right, but he stops when he sees them. Sam’s kneeling by Fiona’s side, leaning over her and gingerly brushing her hair off her forehead. “Do you need the hospital?”
“No,” Fiona replies, though she sounds a bit dazed. “I’ll be fine. Sam, you – you could have been hurt. Were you hurt?”
“Nothing too bad,” Sam says. “And I don’t care. I told you, nothing bad’s going to happen to you while I’m around.”
“You meant it,” Fiona says quietly, wonderingly.
“Of course I meant it,” Sam tells her. “Fi, I-” She bites her lip. “I think I’m going to do something really dumb.”
“So you’ll be your normal self, then,” Fiona replies, but her voice is shaking slightly.
“Exactly,” Sam says, and kisses her.
John smiles, but the kiss goes on long enough that he has to look away. And then regrets it, because he winds up looking at Sherlock, who’s watching the girls with something not quite envy and not quite longing in his eyes, and John’s breath hitches. It hits him, hard, just how much he wishes he could kiss Sherlock after a scare like that. He hadn’t realized it until recently, maybe not even fully until right now, but if he’d thought it’d go away, he’s beginning to suspect he might be wrong.
He’s standing so close to Sherlock. Sherlock’s not looking at him, but he could say something, change that, and –
And then Sherlock’s eyes meet his, gaze intense.
It takes everything in John not to reach out for Sherlock. Not even to kiss him, not really, just to hold him, pull him close, because suddenly the distance between them is too much.
He gives in, and steps closer, so close that they’re almost touching.
“John,” Sherlock murmurs, soft and reverent and almost sad, like he’s just realized something and he suspects it might break the heart he says he doesn’t have.
John reaches for him with his free hand, because hearing Sherlock say his name in that tone of voice might just break his heart as well and he can’t not. John can’t be misreading this. He can’t, that’s longing in Sherlock’s eyes, John knows it. His hand grips Sherlock’s bicep, lightly, and he pulls him closer, leans in the tiniest bit.
Sherlock closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and pulls away.
John’s left closing his hand on air, missing the warmth under his fingers, and feeling empty and even more confused than he had before.
“Sherlock,” John says, and it comes out almost a question.
“You had better go see to them,” Sherlock says.
And that’s true enough, at least. John turns away from Sherlock, because he is a doctor, and tending to people who’d just been punched and kicked is, at the moment, much more important than John’s confusion.
Sam and Fiona have stopped kissing, though they’re still close enough that their lips nearly touch.
John clears his throat, and they look up at him. “Since you vetoed the hospital, mind if I take a look?”
“Isn’t that one of the bonuses about being friends with a doctor?” Sam asks, standing and then helping Fiona up.
John puts the safety back on his gun and slips it back into his pocket, then sees to Fiona first, checking her ribs (nothing broken, though she’ll have bruising) and her head (no broken cheekbones, but she likely has a minor concussion and she’ll have a black eye). He relays this to her, then says, “There likely isn’t any danger, but you shouldn’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time for at least the next twelve hours. Do you have someone who can wake you and check on you?”
“Me,” Sam says. “She’s got me.” She looks at Fiona. “Stay the night at my flat?”
Fiona reaches out almost shyly to take Sam’s hand. “All right.”
John nods. “Wake her up every two or three hours, and make sure she’s behaving normally – for her – and can answer simple questions like her name and where she is.”
He then checks over Sam quickly (no serious injuries, though she’ll probably have some bruises where the man grabbed her) and pronounces them both fit to leave. “Though I want to hear from both of you tomorrow to make sure nothing’s changed.”
“No,” Sherlock says abruptly.
John frowns at him. “No?”
“They can’t leave yet,” he clarifies, then looks at Fiona and says stiffly, “I apologize. What I said was uncalled for. Had I been in your shoes, my conclusion would most likely have been the same.”
And now John wants to kiss him again. He looks away, and uses the pretence of double checking that the safety’s on his gun to get himself under control.
“Thank you,” Fiona says quietly.
“Sorry I hit you,” Sam offers to Sherlock.
“You hit him?” Fiona asks, turning to look at Sam.
“It surprises you?” Sherlock asks. “She nearly bashed a man’s head in for you.”
Sam winces, then lifts her chin defiantly, like she’s expecting them to rebuke her for it, or maybe even worse, and is prepared to stand by it.
John won’t. He has no place to, really, not when he’s fully aware that he would have done far worse to anyone who dared raise a crowbar to Sherlock.
“Thank you,” Fiona says again, this time hesitantly and full of barely concealed affection.
Sam’s response is to kiss her.
John waits what he considers a reasonable time for them to finish, then clears his throat. “We should return to the main road, get a cab.”
“Okay,” Sam agrees without looking at him, because she’s still smiling at Fiona.
By now, John’s got the number for a cab company on speed dial (a relatively inexpensive one that has few qualms about going to odd places at all hours of the night) and he calls for one while they walk. Sam and Fiona walk a bit ahead of them (so John can keep an eye on them, he’s feeling guilty enough about not immediately going after them), their fingers laced together between them.
When they get to the main road, John looks Fiona over again, under the light of a street lamp while they wait for the cab, but finds nothing serious that he hadn’t seen before.
“We’ll drop you two off first,” John tells Sam and Fiona after the cab’s pulled up.
Sam gives her address to the cabbie as they all climb in. She and Fiona sit as close together as they can manage without being in each other’s laps, but when John glances over to share a smile with Sherlock, he finds Sherlock looking pointedly out the window, ignoring them.
They leave Fiona and Sam at Sam’s flat (after John reminds them once more to contact him tomorrow). Sherlock directs the cabbie to Baker Street, and then moves, hopping across to sit in the spot recently vacated by Fiona. Diagonal from John, and (John can’t help but notice) as far from him as possible.
John feels a surge of irritation, and is tempted to ask if he shouldn’t just get his own cab, then. But he doesn’t, because under the irritation is a slight hint of fear. He’d obviously misread Sherlock’s intentions back in the alley, and he’s apparently made Sherlock so uncomfortable that he doesn’t even want to sit next to him in the cab.
At this point, he’s just hoping Sherlock will forget about it in the excitement of the case. John suspects calling attention to it, even to assure Sherlock it’ll never happen again, will only make it worse. If for no other reason than that would require John to confirm that something had happened, or had been about to happen. If he ignores it, maybe Sherlock will assume his motivations were entirely innocent, and he’d held Sherlock’s arm and started pulling him in for – something, anything other than to kiss him. John can’t think of anything, really, but Sherlock’s cleverer than he is; he’ll think of something not kiss-related.
Right. John’s doomed. His only hope is the case’s distraction, which, well, is actually a pretty good hope. John never thought he’d be so grateful for Sherlock’s single-mindedness.
Sherlock says nothing the entire ride back, and his silence continues when they reach their flat.
John waits for as long as he can stand (which turns out to be only a few moments) before he has to say something, and if he’s not careful, it’s going to be about exactly what he’s avoiding bringing up. He’s got to steer it towards the case, then, get Sherlock talking about it and distracted. Should be easy enough, especially as there actually had been something John wanted to ask him about.
“Sherlock,” John says. “What you were saying earlier tonight-”
Sherlock holds up a hand. “Not now, John,” he says, and disappears into his room.
Yeah. That’d gone great. Before John can think too much into it, though, Sherlock emerges again, arms full of the photo he’d taken away earlier, and begins tacking them up on the wall.
“Do you have a theory on how the victims are connected, then?” John asks, hesitantly trying again.
Sherlock looks over at him, the case-excited gleam back in his eyes. “It’s personal, John, it has to be. The messages are clearly tailored to each victim – now that I know their source and why they were fragmented – merely tailored in a way that only two will understand. He’s killing them for a reason, either his own, or, more likely, the person the messages are intended for. Why choose specific victims, with specific messages attached to them, addressed to a specific person, unless the killings are for said person?”
John frowns. “So, he’s killing people for someone, people that person has a reason to want dead, like – a contract killer?”
Sherlock shakes his head. “I’d considered it, but this man is no professional. The manner of death, the decoration of the crime scene, the things taken, everything about these murders screams of a much more personal motivation than money. He has an emotional connection to the person he’s killing for – love, maybe, or possibly even a sense of guilt or a debt he owes this person.”
“It’s definitely one person, then, not a group?” John asks.
“It’s one person,” Sherlock agrees. “And it’s highly likely that person belongs to the same social circle. Someone who wants a cheerleader, two rugby players, a professor, and a pub worker dead.”
John considers that. “Doesn’t have to belong to their crowd, does it? If it’s someone with a reason to want them dead, it could be someone very much not in their social circle.”
“But the killer clearly is,” Sherlock says. “And who else would he form a strong enough emotional connection with to be willing to kill these people for them?”
John shrugs. “Things happen. Just look at Fiona and Sam.” For the briefest second, John wonders. Fiona could have a reason to want them dead, and Sam is not only knowledgeable enough about the victims to know their personal attachments to the things taken, she’s demonstrated she’s willing to hurt people for Fiona. Then he shakes his head, feeling guilty for entertaining the notion even for under a second. Neither of them are capable of something like this, both are obviously keen on solving the case, and Sam’s grief for her friend is clearly genuine and a little bit heartbreaking.
“Yes,” Sherlock says, and there’s an odd tightness about his voice. “That was certainly unexpected, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know,” John replies. “Maybe a little. If I’d been paying more attention, I probably would have seen it a lot sooner than I did.”
Sherlock looks a little uncomfortable. “I suspected. I should have told you.”
John blinks. “Why? We do have more important things going on. I wasn’t focused on it, but I still figured it out a bit. They were pretty obvious, actually.”
“Yes, well, things that seem obvious aren’t always correct,” Sherlock says. “People say that about us, and they’re very wrong.”
“Absolutely,” John says, relieved to have the chance to reassure Sherlock without having to bring up what happened earlier. “Way off the mark.”
“Yes,” Sherlock says again, still oddly stiff.
“But I’m glad about the girls,” John says, hurriedly shifting the subject back away from Sherlock and himself. “They could use some happiness.”
“Very fortunate for them,” Sherlock says, then throws himself on the couch. “Wake me in three hours, would you, John?”
John is – a bit shocked. He wants to protest, because they’re not done, there’s still this tension between them that John can’t stand, especially when he’s not quite sure of the cause, but what he suspects is it was his fault, and he needs to do something to fix it but doesn’t know what.
But he doesn’t protest, because Sherlock is voluntarily going to sleep, and John’s not going to try and stop that by forcing continued talk, when he’s not even sure that’ll help. He has a feeling Sherlock knows that, and is doing it on purpose, but that doesn’t actually change anything.
“All right,” John agrees, settling himself in his chair.
Hopefully a few hours of sleep will fix whatever this is.
Sam had texted Lacey during the taxi ride to see if she was at their flat, and promised to call as soon as possible when Lacey replied that she wasn’t.
“My flatmate’s not home,” Sam tells Fiona as she lets them into the flat. “So we don’t have to worry about waking her or anything.”
“Good,” Fiona replies absently, running her fingers through her hair and then grimacing when they catch on drying mud. “May I use your shower?”
“Of course,” Sam says. “I’ve probably got a few things that’ll fit you, if you want, and I can put your clothes in the wash.”
“Not the coat,” Fiona says, taking it off and looking regretfully at the patches of grime. “It’s dry clean only.”
Sam takes the coat from her and hangs it up, then reaches for her hand and laces their fingers together (because she can), leading her to her bedroom. They find one of Sam’s over-sized tee-shirts and a pair of pyjama bottoms, too long on Sam, but they should work for Fiona. Sam shows her the bathroom, then heads to the kitchen to call Lacey.
“You’re getting home late,” Lacey says, sounding tired.
“Did I wake you?” Sam asks, feeling guilty.
“Not really,” Lacey replies. “Danny’s got the late shift tonight, and Anna didn’t want to be alone. Kayla and I are over here waiting up for him with her.”
“Are you staying there, then?” Sam asks.
“Too late to be worth heading back, so yeah,” Lacey says, then asks tentatively, “You going to be okay alone tonight?”
It isn’t the kind of question Lacey would normally ask, but then, these aren’t normal circumstances. It’ll be the first night she’s spent without her friends since Finn’s death. None of them had really wanted to be alone, and those that could have been staying together. Sam had been at whoever’s flat they were at that night every time; if she couldn’t be there for her friends during the day, she’d be there at night.
“I’ll be fine,” Sam says.
There’s a pause, then Lacey asks, “Will you? I’ve barely seen you during the day, Sam, I just – are you doing okay?”
Sam swallows, and tries not to feel guilty. “Yeah. Yeah, Lace, I’m fine.”
“You don’t always have to be the strong one, you know,” Lacey tells her, in a tone of voice that says exactly how much Lacey believes that.
Sam raises her eyebrows, though she knows Lacey can’t see it. “I could say the same about you. Are you doing okay?”
“I’ll be honest if you are?” Lacey offers.
“Deal,” Sam agrees.
“I’m not okay,” Lacey says. “I miss him. I keep thinking of things I have to tell him, stuff that reminds me of him. I think it helps, that I’ve got Kayla and the others to look after. Kind of miss having you around to help me with that, though.”
And there’s the guilt again. “I’m sorry, Lace. You’re right, I haven’t been around much. I – I’m not dealing. I’m just not going to deal until the killer’s found and then – then I’ll let it be real.”
“So you’re just off by yourself, not dealing?” Lacey asks.
“No,” Sam replies, biting her lip and trying to figure out how to not tell her the truth without lying. “There’s this girl.” Ugh, no, Sam really doesn’t want to have to attempt to explain Fiona right then. “And I – I went looking for Finn’s trainers.”
“What? Why didn’t you call us, we could have done it together! And why now?” Lacey asks.
“I knew you’d have to be there for Kayla, and I didn’t think she was ready for it. I didn’t want to make you choose between helping me and taking care of Kayla. And – remember I told you the detectives asked me about Finn’s trainers, because they thought the killer might have taken them? I thought if I found them, it’d help.”
The slightly hurt note in Lacey’s voice changes to understanding. “I want to help just as much as you. But we’ve got to let the police handle this one. It’s their job, you know? And they’re good at it. They’ve already got some promising leads.”
Sam nods. That’d been exactly what she thought Lacey would say. Then she blinks. “How do you know that?”
“I asked Gregson about it, to see if there was anything I could do,” Lacey says, sounding vaguely sheepish. “He said they’ve already got an outside consultant looking into things, and he appreciated the thought but they didn’t need a volunteer getting mixed up into it.”
Sam smiles slightly. “You’re gonna make a great cop, Lacey.”
“Yeah, tell that to my parents,” Lacey grumbles. “They’re still hoping I’ll do something that’ll make me rich and prestigious after I graduate. S’what I get for having a best mate looking to go into a graduate program at a medical school.”
Sam’s smile grows a bit. “Sorry. Would you like me to tell them it’ll be nowhere near as rich and prestigious as they imagine?”
“Doubt it’ll do much good,” Lacey says with a sigh. “Hey, we’re probably gonna be up for a while longer, if you wanna head over?”
“Um,” Sam says. “Actually, I have a friend over.”
“Oh,” Lacey says, and Sam can practically hear the grin. “So you were just calling to make sure I stayed out of the flat tonight, then?”
“Lacey!” Sam scolds. “It’s not a friend like that, it’s-” she pauses, then smiles a bit and says hesitantly, “Actually, I think Fiona might be a friend like that.”
“Fiona,” Lacey says. “Fiona Masters?”
“Yeah,” Sam replies, and for once she’s not at all defensive, because she knows Lacey won’t immediately jump to conclusions.
There’s silence for a moment, then Lacey says, “Be careful, Sam.”
“Oh, not you, too,” Sam says, unable to hide the hurt. “What, are you afraid she’s going to break my heart?”
“Yes,” Lacey says honestly. “But you might break hers, too.”
That isn’t what Sam was expecting. “What?”
“I knew her,” Lacey tells her. “First term of my second year, we had a class together and got assigned to be partners. She was weird, kind of a jerk, but it seemed like a defence mechanism to me. I think I figured she could use a friend.”
“You two were friends?” Sam asks.
“I like to think so,” Lacey says.
“How come I never met her?” Sam asks.
“Because it didn’t last long,” Lacey replies. “I found out she was involved with drugs, and I was dumb and handled it badly. Told her I couldn’t be friends with a junkie, and she said we weren’t friends, never had been, and she had no desire to be. I kept trying for a bit, but she didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, so I let it go. Wasn’t the best decision ever, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was young.” She chuckles self-depreciatingly. “I say that like I’m not now. So, look, just be careful, okay? You could both hurt each other without meaning to, and I don’t want that to happen.”
Sam can’t decide if she wants to thank her for being concerned for both of them, or snap at her for making her think of all the ways this could go wrong when she’d just worked up the courage to act on it. “I know, Lace,” she says quietly. “But maybe it’ll be brilliant, and it’s worth it to me.”
“Then I’m happy for you,” Lacey replies. “You going to bring her round some time when I’m home?”
“’Course,” Sam says. “But probably not for a bit. This is all still new.”
“Understandable,” Lacey says. “I’ll be out most of the day tomorrow anyway. Anna’s decided the best way to deal with this is to work on that project she’s got due at the end of the term, and I’m gonna keep her company.”
“So you’ll be at the chem lab?” Sam asks.
“Yeah, when we finally get up,” Lacey replies. “Which, considering the time we’ll end up going to sleep, will probably be late.”
“Okay,” Sam says, then thinks of something. “Oh, hey. Do me a favour? If there’s a guy named Matt there, be nice to him?”
“Uh. Yeah, sure,” Lacey says.
“Thanks,” Sam says. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah? Don’t get to sleep too late.”
“The opposite to you,” Lacey says cheerfully. “Get to sleep really, really late. Don’t even sleep at all, actually.”
“Good night, Lacey,” Sam replies firmly, but she’s smiling slightly as she hangs up on her.
The shower’s stopped running by now, but Fiona hasn’t come out yet, so Sam gathers up some of her clothes. Might as well do some of her own laundry since she’s washing Fiona’s things.
Fiona emerges while Sam’s loading up the machine.
“Perfect timing,” Sam says. “Have you got your clothes?”
Fiona hands them over, and Sam starts up the wash.
“I’m going to go get changed,” Sam tells her. “If you’re hungry or thirsty, grab whatever you want, okay? I’ll just be a minute.”
Fiona nods, and Sam darts into her room, hurriedly pulling on her favourite jumper and a pair of shorts. She expects Fiona to be in the kitchen when she’s done, but she finds her standing in the hallway, looking at the framed photographs on the wall.
“You’re not hungry?” Sam asks.
“No,” Fiona replies absently.
“At least have some water,” Sam says.
“All right,” Fiona agrees, but she doesn’t move.
Sam heads into the kitchen to get some for her (without complaint, someone who’s recently got a head injury deserves a bit of being waited on). Fiona takes the glass when it’s offered without looking away from a picture of Sam, Lacey, Finn, Sawyer, Kayla, Danny, and Anna at the beach.
“She wasn’t at the crime scene yesterday,” Fiona says, nodding towards the picture.
Fiona doesn’t specify which ‘she’ she’s talking about, but Sam knows. “No, she volunteers for the Met. She used to be a cadet, now she helps run a unit. They had a meeting then,” Sam says.
“She’s your flatmate,” Fiona says.
“Yes,” Sam agrees. Then, “You knew her.”
“Briefly,” Fiona says, then finally looks at her. “Will you give me an ultimatum as well? Demand I change to be worthy of your association?”
Sam winces. “Lacey didn’t mean it that way. She was just worried about you.”
Fiona looks unconvinced. “I asked about you.”
“I don’t know,” Sam says honestly. “Right now? No. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t bother me, but I want to be with you. Am I going to ask you to stop? Yes, but not for me. Well, all right, partially for me, because I don’t want to sit by and watch you do that to yourself. In the future, though, I don’t know. I just don’t, Fi, I might not be able to handle it. But now, I’m not going to leave because of that.”
Fiona stares at her glass for a long time. Then she says, “I’m clean.”
Sam blinks. “What?”
“I have been for nearly a year. I let people assume whatever they wish, and I don’t correct them because it doesn’t matter. But – it does with you,” Fiona says.
That probably shouldn’t make her heart skip a beat, but it does. “Why did you quit?”
“Because I saw the way it controlled other people,” Fiona says. “I wasn’t at that point, and I couldn’t allow that to happen. I won’t allow anything to control me but myself.”
“So – that question was just you testing me?” Sam asks.
“Yes,” Fiona agrees.
Sam tries to be irritated, but it’s hard when Fiona’s standing in her hallway, wearing her clothes and telling her that her opinion is the only one that matters. “What would you have done if I said yes?”
“I don’t know,” Fiona admits. “It’s possible I might have considered changing.”
Sam reaches out, slipping her arms around Fiona’s waist and pulling her close. “Don’t,” she murmurs. “Don’t ever change.” She leans up to kiss her, and is gratified when Fiona kisses her back.
“You still want to do this, then?” Fiona asks when they break apart, sounding dazed.
“You’re the genius, you figure it out,” Sam says affectionately, then her brow furrows in concern. “Are you all right?”
“A bit dizzy,” Fiona says.
“Let’s sit down,” Sam says, leading her to the sofa.
She makes Fiona drink some of the water, then sets the glass aside and curls up next to her, lacing their fingers together.
“Why?” Fiona asks.
“Why what?” Sam says.
“Why do you want to be with me?” Fiona says.
“Oh, for – you, too?” It’s a bit frustrating, how many people have asked her that, or at least implied they were wondering it. That it’s Fiona herself asking now makes her chest tighten a bit. “Besides the obvious reasons – funny, smart, beautiful, adventurous – that I’ve already mentioned?” Sam shrugs. “You don’t think of me like most people do. You don’t expect me to fit what they think I should be, and even if I like most of what that is, it’s – nice. When I’m with you, it feels like we can do anything we set our minds to. Like I don’t have to be anyone but me, even if me is a bit weird and out of place.”
“No,” Fiona says.
Sam blinks. “Sorry?”
“That’s how you make me feel,” Fiona tells her.
Sam swallows, then smiles at her. “That’s a good thing, you know, when two people make each other feel the same way.”
“Is this how it’s supposed to be, then?” Fiona asks.
Sam laughs. “No. I am absolutely not supposed to be this gone over you in less than a week.” She also probably isn’t supposed to be thinking about the long run yet, but she can’t imagine a future without Fiona in it. She isn’t going to say that bit out loud, though. “But I am, and I don’t care.”
Fiona considers that. Then she smiles and says, “Then I don’t care that I am, either.”
“Best thing I’ve heard in awhile,” Sam tells her.
Fiona’s still smiling. It might be the longest time Sam’s ever seen Fiona smile without stopping, and she searches for something to say to keep it there. Before she can think of anything, though, Fiona’s tipping her chin up and leaning in to kiss her. It’s the first time Fiona’s initiated a kiss, but it isn’t at all hesitant (possibly because they’ve already had several; it must be old hat for Fiona now). Then again, judging by the way Fiona’s still smiling at her when they break apart, maybe not.
“We should get to sleep,” Sam murmurs. “It’s really late.”
“Shall I take the sofa, then?” Fiona asks.
“No,” Sam replies without thinking. “My bed’s big enough, we can share. Just – just to sleep. I just want to be close to you.”
“Did I worry you that badly?” Fiona asks.
Sam raises her eyebrows at her. “You mean when some bloke nearly bashed you with a crowbar? Yeah, I’d say that worried me.” She shakes her head. “John and Sherlock must deal with that all the time; I dunno how they do it.”
Fiona wrinkles her nose slightly. “They’re not together, you know. You said they were.”
“I said I thought they might be,” Sam corrects. “Or that they wanted to be. Seems like they are, though, doesn’t it?”
“There are some things that make it appear so, yes,” Fiona admits.
Sam still thinks they at least want to be, though she isn’t sure either of them know it. “To be honest,” Sam says, brushing the tip of her nose playfully against Fiona’s. “I’m not all that interested in them right now. Not when there’s so much more keeping my attention right here.”
“Fair point,” Fiona agrees. “And I believe you said something about bed?”
“I did,” Sam says. “But first-” She kisses Fiona again.
They eventually make it to Sam’s bed (it takes them longer than it should because it keeps being very important for one of them to kiss the other). Sam sets her alarm to go off in three hours, and then they curl up under the covers. Sam tangles her legs with Fiona’s, and Fiona rests her head on Sam’s pillow.
Sam runs her fingers gently through Fiona’s hair, kisses her, and says, “My alarm’ll go off in three hours.”
“Mmm,” Fiona agrees absently, her hand resting on Sam’s hip.
Sam kisses her one last time, then snuggles in, tucking her head under Fiona’s chin. She’d meant it, when she said just to sleep. As much as she’d like to keep kissing Fiona (and more), Sam’s exhausted, and Fiona must be feeling her concussion at least a little. And Fiona’s curled up against her, warm and safe in a way that makes Sam never really want to move. Which is enough.
For tonight, at least.